It started innocently enough, but…
My conscience wouldn’t allow me to accept the recent LinkedIn connection request from a striking woman labeled online as vicious, psychopathic, and a fraud.
My conscience was nowhere to be found however when I accepted a connection request from the lovely French art teacher in the American Midwest who wanted to know when I was free to talk and other personal things about myself before very quickly letting me know that out of the blue a close relative was deathly ill and she had to leave the country and wanted my cell number so that we could stay in touch.
Nor did it stop me from conversing online with a fashionable woman that seemed to know a lot about me and wanted to take our conversation offline onto a mysterious social media platform connected with online scamming.
Can you imagine yourself in the shoes of a former beauty queen turned research analyst at a hedge fund, facing a prison sentence after pleading guilty to an insider trading probe?
Would switching places with a computer programmer sentenced to imprisonment by a judge for “keeping in place the essential backbone of the infrastructure that perpetuated the largest Ponzi scheme in recent times” seem a bit more realistic?
Even close-knit families, perhaps living in your community, aren’t immune to scandalous front-page headlines: Just ask the CEO of an electronics retailer accused of masterminding one of the largest securities frauds of its time.
These crimes have cost investors hundreds of millions of dollars, cost many people their life savings, jobs, and careers, cost creditors hundreds of millions of dollars, and caused suffering beyond measure for many people.
However unimaginable these scenarios might be for the majority of us, these dangers may in fact be much closer to home than we think. As a former New York City-based headhunter, I’m not proud to state that (not knowing what they were up to at the time) I knew some of the above-mentioned individuals personally, and I’m literally one degree removed from the rest.
Who are you connected to? Have you considered that among your first, second, and third-degree connections that you’re now at most likely three degrees separated from the world’s most notorious frauds? Scary thought, isn’t it?
Even more frightening is that you or someone reading this might one day actually be labeled the next “Darth Vader of Capitalism” by the authorities.
Those who have “crossed the line” have clearly lost their objectivity.
My warning is for all of us to look within if and when we’re ethically challenged. If you’re reading this, you possess the power of choice and the choice to do the right thing NOW, before doing something you’ll regret.
Might doing the right thing cause short-term suffering? There’s no doubt about that. But if it feels wrong, I urge you to hit the pause button and not to go with the flow because you’re expected to – or because “everyone else is doing it.”
I’m asking you in advance to take full responsibility for your actions and the potential future white-collar crime and fraud that crosses your path. I’d ask you to consider the impact on other human beings that you personally might bring into a fraudulent situation and the wreckage associated with keeping your fraud going.
Please consider the government lawyers, plaintiff’s lawyers, government investigators, and plaintiff’s investigators whose efforts in uncovering the truth are met with deceit. Consider the lives of shareholders, employees, creditors, public accounting firms, Wall Street firms, financial analysts, the press, loved ones, and so on.
Most importantly, if you’re still reading this: Please consider the long-term impact of fraud and scandal on the man or woman that you look squarely at in the mirror every day.