Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Body Solutions Founder Gets Jail Time

Body Solutions' founder, Harry Siskind, "waves" to reporters after being sentenced to 37 months in prison for lying to federal authorities. Like ethics icon Martha Stewart, he isn't going to jail for the crime of which he was first accused. He is going to jail for lying about facts related to the investigation. I still remember the huge San Antonio Spurs flag waiving in multiple spotlights above the Body Solutions building on Hwy 281 and Bitters Road. Local radio and tv were covered with the amateurish explosion logo. The sales of the aloe vera potion were astronomical, with Siskind's ads making dramatic weight loss claims. They couldn't make the stuff fast enough. The ironic thing about the product is that if you take it as directed, you actually do lose weight because you have to take it at night and can't eat anything before going to bed. Nighttime is when most overweight people consume a majority of their calories. Some people lost weight, but not from consuming the ingredients in the bottle. Regardless, the claims were too far reaching and they sparked a federal investigation. Siskind was charged by the FTC for fraud. His company, Mark Nutritionals, Inc., was fined $155 million dollars. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia gives him the maximum sentence set out in sentencing guidelines... and a $10,000 fine to go with the $155 million he still owes.

Monday, December 15, 2008

SEC Charges Siemens AG for Engaging in Worldwide Bribery

There have been more Foreign Corrupt Practices Acts (FCPA) enforcement cases in the US in the last three years than in the history of the Act itself. The government's all over bribes to foreign government officials in exchange for business. Today, the SEC announced huge settlement with Siemens AG. Siemen's AG has agreed to settle claims with the SEC and The Department of Justice, among others, for violations of the FCPA that total over $1 billion dollars. Yes, with a "b." The SEC press release link is at the bottom of this post.

Washington, D.C., Dec. 15, 2008 - The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced an unprecedented settlement with Siemens AG to resolve SEC charges that the Munich, Germany-based manufacturer of industrial and consumer products violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by engaging in a systematic practice of paying bribes to foreign government officials to obtain business.The SEC alleges that Siemens paid bribes on such widespread transactions as the design and construction of metro transit lines in Venezuela, power plants in Israel, and refineries in Mexico. Siemens also used bribes to obtain such business as developing mobile telephone networks in Bangladesh, national identity cards in Argentina, and medical devices in Vietnam, China, and Russia. According to the SEC's complaint, Siemens also paid kickbacks to Iraqi ministries in connection with sales of power stations and equipment to Iraq under the United Nations Oil for Food Program. Siemens earned more than $1.1 billion in profits on these and several other transactions.Siemens has agreed to pay $350 million in disgorgement to settle the SEC's charges, and a $450 million fine to the U.S. Department of Justice to settle criminal charges. Siemens also will pay a fine of approximately $569 million to the Office of the Prosecutor General in Munich, to whom the company previously paid an approximately $285 million fine in October 2007. View Press Release 2008-294

Friday, December 12, 2008

Something Positive During the Crime Spree

The last few days have been surreal, with a large number of indictments and arrests of wealthy business and political leaders who have allegedly committed fraud with wreckless abandon. It is truly a white collar crime spree in the U.S. However, a ray of light peeks through as some large corporations take the lead in trying to get corruption under control. One of Ethics Follies favorite ethics resources, Ethisphere Magazine, reported on its Business Ethics Leadership Alliance (BELA), which is seventeen companies which have committed to a code of conduct to rebuild trust in corporate behavior. The principles that these well-known companies, like GE, Wal-Mart, PepsiCo, Dell, and Accenture, have agreed to include legal compliance, transparency, avoiding conflict of interests and accountability. The voluntary initiative is to reinforce the standards of ethics and fortify confidence in business worldwide. As part of the agreement, the companies have to submit to regular independent audits. Ethisphere’s own reputation has grown rapidly in recent years and getting on their list of the most ethical companies is impressive.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Former Nasdaq chairman Arrested for 50 Billion Dollar Fraud

I started the Ethics Follies blog to keep track of the year's corporate ethics and compliance issues to use in writing a script six months from now. Since my first post, the stories just keep coming! And not just minor glitches. These are doozies. A governor trying to sell Obama's Senate seat, two hedge fund schemes, and a partridge in a pear tree. The following is from Rueters on Dec. 11, 2008:

NEW YORK - Bernard Madoff, a longtime fixture on Wall Street, was arrested and charged on Thursday with allegedly running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, U.S. authorities said.
The former chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market who remains a member of Nasdaq OMX Group Inc’s nominating committee, is best known as the founder of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, the closely-held market-making firm he founded in 1960.
But the alleged fraud involved a hedge fund he ran from a separate floor of the building where his brokerage is based. Madoff told senior employees of his firm on Wednesday that “it’s all just one big lie” and that it was “basically, a giant Ponzi scheme,” with estimated investor losses of about $50 billion, according to a criminal complaint against him.
A Ponzi scheme is a pyramid-type swindle in which very high returns are promised to early investors, who are paid off with money put up by later investors.

Prosecutors charged Madoff, 70, with a single count of securities fraud. They said he faces up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5 million.
“Madoff stated that the business was insolvent, and that it had been for years,” Lev Dassin, acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.

Authorities said that, according to a document filed by Madoff with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on January 7, 2008, Madoff’s investment advisory business served between 11 and 25 clients and had a total of about $17.1 billion in assets under management.
“Bernard Madoff is a longstanding leader in the financial services industry,” his lawyer Dan Horwitz told reporters outside a downtown Manhattan courtroom where he was arraigned. “We will fight to get through this unfortunate set of events.”
A shaken Madoff stared at the ground as reporters peppered him with questions. He was released after posting a $10 million bond secured by his Manhattan apartment.
The SEC filed separate civil charges.
“Our complaint alleges a stunning fraud -- both in terms of scope and duration,” said Scott Friestad, the SEC’s deputy enforcer. “We are moving quickly and decisively to stop the scheme and protect the remaining assets for investors.”
The SEC said it appeared that virtually all of the assets of his hedge fund business were missing.
Madoff had long kept the financial statements for his hedge fund business under “lock and key,” according to prosecutors, and was “cryptic” about the firm.
Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities has more than $700 million in capital, according to its website. It is a market maker for about 350 Nasdaq stocks, including Apple, EBay and Dell, according to the website.
The website also states that Madoff himself has “a personal interest in maintaining the unblemished record of value, fair-dealing, and high ethical standards that has always been the firm’s hallmark.”

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ilinois Governor Arrested in Obama Successor Probe

Where are America's leaders' ethics? Did we learn nothing from Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton?! The following (like a low budget Lifetime movie, but half as believable) story is from AP Wire. At least the actor playing the Governor in the movie will have an easy time looking like the character by just sporting a large toupe:

CHICAGO – Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested on Tuesday on charges that he brazenly conspired to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder. Blagojevich also was charged with illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., the owner of the Chicago Tribune, in the sale of Wrigley Field, according to a federal criminal complaint. In return for state assistance, Blagojevich allegedly wanted members of the paper's editorial board who had been critical of him fired.

A 76-page FBI affidavit said the 51-year-old Democratic governor was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps over the last month conspiring to sell or trade the vacant Senate seat for personal benefits for himself and his wife, Patti. Otherwise, Blagojevich considered appointing himself. The affidavit said that as late as Nov. 3, he told his deputy governor that if "they're not going to offer me anything of value I might as well take it."

"I'm going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain," Blagojevich allegedly said later that day, according to the affidavit, which also quoted him as saying in a remark punctuated by profanity that the seat was "a valuable thing — you just don't give it away for nothing."

The affidavit said Blagojevich also discussed getting a substantial salary for himself at a nonprofit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions. It said Blagojevich also talked about getting his wife placed on corporate boards where she might get $150,000 a year in director's fees. He also allegedly discussed getting campaign funds for himself or possibly a post in the president's cabinet or an ambassadorship once he left the governor's office. He noted becoming a U.S. senator might remake his image for a possible presidential run in 2016, according to the affidavit. And he allegedly said a Senate seat would also provide him with corporate contacts if he needed a job and present an opportunity for his wife to work as a lobbyist. "I want to make money," the affidavit quotes him as saying in one conversation. The affidavit said Blagojevich expressed frustration at being "stuck" as governor and that he would have access to greater resources if he were indicted while in the U.S. Senate than while sitting as governor.
U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald said in a statement that "the breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering."

"They allege that Blagojevich put a for sale sign on the naming of a United States senator," Fitzgerald said." Messages left for Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero and at the governor's press office were not immediately returned Tuesday morning. Among those being considered for the Senate post include U.S. Reps. Danny Davis and Jesse Jackson Jr. The affidavit outlined a Nov. 10 call between Blagojevich, his wife, his chief of staff — John Harris, who also was arrested Tuesday — and a group of advisers in which Harris allegedly suggested working out an agreement with the Service Employees International Union. Under the plan, Blagojevich would appoint a new senator who would be helpful to the president-elect and in turn get a job as head of Change to Win, a group formed by the union. The union would get an unspecified favor from Obama later. Nothing in the court papers suggested Obama had any part in the discussion. In fact, Blagojevich allegedly said in the same conversation that Obama most likely would not appoint him as secretary of health and human services or to an ambassadorship because of the negative publicity that has surrounded the governor for three years. One day later, according to the affidavit, Blagojevich allegedly told an associate he knew Obama wanted a specific Senate candidate but "they're not going to give me anything except appreciation." He finished the remark with an expletive.

Blagojevich also was charged with using his authority as governor in an attempt to squeeze out campaign contributions. Corruption in the Blagojevich administration has been the focus of a federal investigation involving an alleged $7 million scheme aimed at squeezing kickbacks out of companies seeking business from the state. Federal prosecutors have acknowledged they're also investigating "serious allegations of endemic hiring fraud" under Blagojevich, who has a $177,412 salary, though it's unclear whether he accepts the total. Political fundraiser Antoin "Tony" Rezko who raised money for the campaigns of both Blagojevich and Obama is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of fraud and other charges. Blagojevich's chief fundraiser, Christopher G. Kelly, is due to stand trial early next year on charges of obstructing the Internal Revenue Service.
According to Tuesday's complaint, Blagojevich schemed with Rezko, millionaire-fundraiser turned federal witness Stuart Levine and others to get financial benefits for himself and his campaign committee.

Federal prosecutors said Blagojevich and the chairman of his campaign committee have been speeding up corrupt fundraising activities in the last month to get as much money as possible before the end of the year when a new law would curtail his ability to raise contributions from companies with state contracts worth more than $50,000.

According to the affidavit, agents learned Blagojevich was seeking $2.5 million in campaign contributions by the end of the year, with a large part allegedly to come from companies and individuals who have gotten state contracts or appointments.
The affidavit also outlines Blagojevich conversations related to Tribune Co., which has been hoping to sell Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs which the publishing giant also owns.
Blagojevich was quoted in court papers as telling Harris in a profanity laced Nov. 4 conversation that his recommendation to Tribune executives was to fire the editorial writers "and get us some editorial support."

Harris is quoted as telling the governor Nov. 11 that an unnamed Tribune Owner, presumably CEO Sam Zell, "got the message and is very sensitive to the issue." The affidavit said Harris quoted a Tribune financial adviser as saying cuts were coming at the newspaper and "reading between the lines he's going after that section," apparently meaning editorial writers. Blagojevich is quoted as saying: "Oh, that's fantastic." "Wow," Blagojevich allegedly replied. "Keep our fingers crossed. You're the man. Good job, John."

Harris allegedly told Blagojevich in his conversation with the financial adviser he had singled out deputy editorial page editor John McCormick as "somebody who was the most biased and unfair." After hearing that, Blagojevich allegedly stressed to the head of a Chicago sports consulting firm that it was important to provide state aid for a Wrigley Field sale.
Blagojevich took the chief executive's office in 2003 as a reformer promising to clean up former Gov. George Ryan's mess.

Ryan, a Republican, is serving a 6-year prison sentence after being convicted on racketeering and fraud charges. A decade-long investigation began with the sale of driver's licenses for bribes and led to the conviction of dozens of people who worked for Ryan when he was secretary of state and governor. FBI spokesman Frank Bochte said federal agents arrested the governor and Harris simultaneously at their homes at 6:15 a.m. and took them to the Chicago FBI headquarters.

He did not have any details about Blagojevich's arrest, only that he was cooperative with federal agents. "It was a very calm setting," he said. The governor was to appear later Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan to answer the charges. The time was not immediately set.
Associated Press Writer Don Babwin contributed to this report.

When Do Hourly Rates Become Ridiculous?

I'm going to venture out there on an editorial limb and suggest that now...December 2008....billable hourly rates are officially unreasonable in the US at large firms. The National Law Journal reports that "[t]he average of this year's average firmwide billing rates, which include partner and associate rates, climbed by 4.3%. The level of increase for average firmwide billing rates was lower than the increase last year of 7.7%, compared with 2006. The continued uptick in legal expenses means that law firms should expect clients, especially in a worsening economy, to hire more attorneys in-house and to rely more heavily on "flexible staffing," said Pamela Woldow, general counsel and principal of Altman Weil Inc., a law firm consultancy. In addition, clients, such as pharmaceutical companies, that in the past did not demand alternative or varied fees will be "negotiating harder" for better deals on legal services, Woldow said. The average of the average firmwide billing rate for 2008 was $363 per hour, compared with $348 in 2007. The average of the median firmwide rate this year was $350 per hour, compared with $347 per hour last year.

The most expensive hourly rate came from White & Case, which reported that the high end of its partner rate was $1,260 per hour. (I choked a little just now) The firm's average partner billing rate was $747 per hour. With 2,205 attorneys, White & Case is ranked No. 6 on the NLJ 250. In a written statement, White & Case said that the high end of its billing rates was "representative of only two potential billing scenarios for clients" and "[did] not take into account a number of key factors, including blended rates and rates negotiated with specific clients."Coming in second was Dorsey & Whitney, where the high end of the partner rate was $1,180. Dorsey's average partner rate was $505. The top rates at Dorsey & Whitney were charged by two international tax partners practicing in London, said firm spokesman Bob Kleiber. The firm declined to identify the partners charging that rate.The two law firms also reported the highest associate rates, with White & Case charging $920 per hour at the high end of the range and Dorsey & Whitney charging up to $820 per hour for associate work. The average associate rate at White & Case was $456 per hour. The average associate rate at Dorsey & Whitney was $301 per hour. The $820 fee charged at Dorsey & Whitney applied to one associate practicing in the firm's London office, Kleiber said. Regarding average partner billing rates, 86.2% of the firms charged more this year than last year. The average of the average partner rate this year was $451 per hour, while the average of the median partner rate was $435 per hour.Regarding associate rates, 80.7% of the law firms responding to the billing survey both in 2007 and 2008 raised the high end of associate rates. The average of the average associate rate for these firms was $282 per hour. The average of the median associate rate was $274. Two law firms besides Dorsey & Whitney and White & Case reported partners who charged four-figure rates. They were Pittsburgh-based Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, at $1,020, and Chicago-based Jenner & Block, at $1,000. Several law firms came close to the $1,000 mark on the high end of the partner rate range. They were New York-based McKee Nelson, at $995; Washington-based Patton Boggs, at $990; Cooley Godward Kronish of Palo Alto, Calif., at $980; Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell, at $975; Chicago-based Winston & Strawn, at $975; Venable of Washington, at $950; Loeb & Loeb, at $925; Washington-based Hogan & Hartson, at $900; and Reed Smith, at $900. Alternative and variant billing systems were popular among many law firms. Of the 127 firms that responded to billing questions, 66 reported that they received at least a portion of their revenue from alternatives and variations. "Variations" to the billable hour mean discounted fees or blended hourly rates, while "alternatives" include fixed or flat fees.Many law firms derived most of their revenue via variations. "

The ethics issues implicated by these astronomical rates is that there is a duty to zealously represent clients regardless of the hourly fee, so there is per se no additional value added for the $1,260 an hour representation. If it is skill that people buying, there may be value added for peace of mind of the client who thinks they have hired a magician who can make things happen that other attorneys can't. Is it ethical to charge whatever the market will bear? One could argue the sophisticated client could go elsewhere and get similar representation. I'm not sure there is even an ethics issue here, it's just interesting to explore why the in house legal community is in such a rage over it and a discussion of right or wrong. I would suggest that in house attorneys are to blame if they don't tell outside attorneys what they are willing to spend on a project or per billable hour. Man up! (you too women!).
The flip side of the ubber expensive attorneys are the talented attorneys at the same firms who don't want the rates to constantly increase for various reasons (guilt, client concerns, limits on marketing when fees are too high), but are billed at those rates due to the firm's policies. The options are to leave the firm they fought so hard to become a partner in or to just not be concerned with the fairness of the rates. Neither is a particularly good solution to the problem.

Wealthy NYC Lawyer Admits $150 Million Securities Fraud

DOH! From the "hard to believe" news department, prominent New York city lawyer Marc Dreier (formerly represented Jon Bon Jovi and Jay Leno) recently admitted to selling fake securities worth millions to unwitting investors. According to a release issued by the U.S. attorney’s office in New York and an accompanying criminal complaint, Dreier was arrested late Sunday night, presumably upon his arrival back in New York, on charges stemming from a $100 million fraud against various hedge funds. The SEC also filed suit against Dreier on Monday, Dec. 8th, alleging that he has been marketing and selling fake promissory notes to investors. Click here for the SEC’s complaint. In a related announcement on Monday, the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission charged Dreier with attempting to raise more than $113 million as part of a "stunning, brazen fraud that targeted some very sophisticated investors." Wachovia Bank also sued Dreier LLP and Marc Dreier (in addition to a handful of others) today, alleging that a credit revolver and term loan extended to the firm are in default, as of November 1, upon which the bank is owed some $12.7 million. Click here for a copy of the complaint.

What's odd is that Dreier is a wealthy individual, who did not appear to be in financial trouble. Because of the sophisticated parties he was defrauding, he would most certainly be caught. So why commit fraud? Greed? Ego? Insanity? From a distance it looks like a lemming jumping off a cliff.

Read more: Marc Dreier

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Acts of God? No ...just "The Donald"

Donald Trump's lawyers have taken the position that they don't have to repay Deutche Bank $330 million of the $640 million he borrowed for a high-rise hotel condominium project in Chicago. Trumps lawyers are claiming the economic recession is a "Force Majeure" as defined in Trump's loan agreements with the Bank, releasing him from the obligations due to acts of God out of his control. This French phrase for "greater force," (Trump?) clearly doesn't mean "I don't have the cash so I'll turn around and just sue you to avoid paying right now." But that's what Trumps lawyers did. Trump refused to repay the loan and then sued Deutsche Bank for tortious interference, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of fiduciary duty. Deutche Bank countered with a request for sanctions against Trump for $40 Million for what appears to be a frivolous lawsuit. The judge is obviously aware of Trump's attorneys behaving badly since he scheduled the hearing on the motion for summary judgement on the sanctions on New Year's Eve. Judges can be a hoot.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"This isn't Candy?"

Drug manufacturer Cephalon recently settled a claim of a misdemeanor violation of the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The company must pay $425 million to settle criminal and civil charges filed against the company for the way it marketed three of its drugs - Actiq (a painkiller), Gabitril (an epilepsy drug) and Provigil (a sleeping drug). "These are potentially harmful drugs that were being marketed as if they were, in the case of Actiq, actual lollipops instead of a potent pain medication intended for a specific class of patients,” said acting United States Attorney Laurie Magid in a statement.
The first part of the settlement is for $50 million (criminal charges) and the second part is for $375 million (civil charges). Implementing a company code of ethics and following the PhRMA Code looks pretty cheap by comparison.
The civil complaint was brought by a former sales rep who, on the government’s request, agreed to wear a wire to a company sales conference. Three other individuals (two of them also former Cephalon sales reps), later filed suit as well. The four whistle-blowers will share $46.5 million from the settlement. Pretty "sweet" for the honest sales reps. What's disturbing from an ethics perspective is that you can't be in the pharma industry and not be aware of FDA's regulations of how drugs may be marketed. The tone was set at the top of Cephalon and it was waaay off pitch.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What You Don't See Can Hurt Your Client

Revisions made with word processing software to legal documents can be revealing if inadvertently given to opposing counsel. The revisions/deletions are still visible as code in the document after they are deleted, even though you can't see them. This invisible data about data, or "metadata," is sometimes sent to an opposing side of a negotiation or lawsuit by accident. There is software that can be used to "scrub" this data out of a document, but it not yet used uniformly in the legal profession. (You can't scrub discovery responses if the metadata is responsive. That metadata must remain untouched). So what happens when opposing counsel gets this document with the other guy's confidential information? The key here is that the confidentiality is owned by the attorney's client, not the attorney. The failure to remove the metadata is a breach of a duty by the attorney to her client. However, the ABA concludes that if an attorney sends you a document, and you should reasonably believe that some information was sent by mistake, the only real duty to the recipient is notify the other attorney of the screw up. But you can do whatever you like with the information after giving such notice. (ABA Formal Opinion 06-442) Hmmm. That sounds like punishment to the client, even though the attorney made the mistake.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ethical Tacos

Andrew Longstreth of American Lawyer edits a really great free newsletter called the Am Law Litigation Daily. I wanted to share one of his entries (I hope he's flattered) because it is clever, and made me think of an Ethics Follies parody. The take away is that you may avoid breaking the law, but when you violate the spirit of the law and damage who it is meant to protect, your ethical compass may be off kilter. In this case, it's possible both Parties are frontin'. Enjoy:

"When Taco Bell used 50 Cent's name in a promotion to sell tacos over the summer, the gangsta rapper talked tough and threatened legal action. "When my legal team is finished with them," he said, "Taco Bell is going to have a new corporate slogan: 'We messed with the bull and got the horns.'" Oh, snap! Fifty, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, wasn't just fronting. He hired an IP lawyer, Peter Raymond of Reed Smith, who filed a $4 million suit in the Southern District of New York against Taco Bell, claiming the restaurant chain infringed 50 Cent's trademark.At issue is a letter sent by Taco Bell's president to 50's agent (but also distributed to the media). In the letter, available here, Taco Bell offered to donate $10,000 to a charity of 50 Cent's choice if he would temporarily change his name to 79 Cent, 89 Cent, or 99 Cent and rap at a Taco Bell drive thru. In 50 Cent's complaint, his lawyers claim the letter was in reality an advertisement and that Taco Bell did not have permission to use the artist's name.Taco Bell's lawyers at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler have been talking smack, too. In the restaurant chain's response, filed in September, they begin by declaring that "Jackson is a self-described former drug dealer and hustler." Oh, no they didn't! "Jackson has used his colorful past to cultivate a public image of belligerence and arrogance and has a well-publicized track record of making threats, starting feuds, and filings lawsuits," they continue. "This lawsuit is another of Jackson's attempts to burnish his gangsta rapper persona by distorting beyond all recognition a bona fide, good faith offer that Taco Bell made to Jackson."Fifty's lawyer, Reed Smith's Raymond, told us that he "disagrees with all the false allegations" of Taco Bell's lawyers. He also said he found it "curious" that Taco Bell describes 50 Cent as such a disreputable character, given that the restaurant was once so eager to be associated with him. "

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Decent's Descent- "Put it on Vibrate Buddy!"

"I Can Hear Your Cell" is a parody of a song from the Broadway show and film "Hairspray." It is a social commentary on the thoughtless use of cell phones in the US. Most business people and attorneys speak openly in public on their cell phones about confidential deals and subject matter without thinking about who may be hearing what is said. We decided to make this song the "Production" number in the show, complete with inflatable cell phones.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cuban Faces Insider Trading Allegations

When Mark Cuban said that the San Antonio River was an "ugly-ass, muddy-watered thing," most folks in San Antonio knew that he was an arrogant jerk. Like many folks who have lost insight as to how they impact others, his overconfidence may have gotten him in trouble with the law. While they are just allegations at this point, the Associated Press reports that federal regulators on Monday charged Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban with insider trading for allegedly using confidential information on a stock sale to avoid more than $750,000 in losses. Cuban disputed the Securities and Exchange Commission’s allegations and said he would contest them. In a civil lawsuit filed in federal court in Dallas, the SEC alleged that in June 2004, Cuban was invited to get in on the coming stock offering by Inc. after he agreed to keep the information private. Maybe he has been chatting with Martha Stewart...and not about her chocolate biscotti recipe.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ethics Follies 2008--Decent's Descent

For the last few months, about 40 people have invested hundreds of rehearsal hours to rehearse a semi-original musical comedy called "Decent's Descent." The musical fulfills the ethics conference mission of the local chapter of The Association of Corporate Counsel. The premiere of the show was on November 6, 2008 at the Empire Theatre. We were pleased that the show was a success on many levels. We got the ethics messages across without being preachy. We raised a substantial amount of money for The Community Justice Program, which provides free legal services to those who can't affford them. As the cherry on top, every single person in the show did their personal best the day of the show.
The Empire Theatre in San Antonio was full of lawyers, accountants, managers, compliance officers and a couple of doctors (in the cast), who were excited to see the alternative to three hours of ethics speeches given at a podium. Ethics awareness helps keep San Antonio ethical in the court room and the board room.
For the next year, I will blog the progress of the Ethics Follies 2009 as we move towards our November 5, 2009 show date. For now, while I'm resting up from the last six months of work, I'll post some photos of the show as they come in and some video, which I hope to receive soon from Fawn Mountain Productions in Austin, Texas.
The Follies cast and crew are coming to my house November 15th for a cast party broohaha. Should be fun.