published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on August
"Former Enron execs
aren't free yet"
What next? The Dallas Morning News announces that
"Two Top Enron Executives Escape Indictment". Where
is justice? What happened to integrity? Who can we
trust? Can we still have confidence in business and
government? Jeffrey Skilling continues to spend time
with his family and Ken Lay is now working at a business
start-up. These are the two men who oversaw the highflying
Enron Corporation and they are denying accountability
for the billions squandered. Neither of them faces
any criminal charges. To make matters even worse,
the Justice Department pronounces itself "very satisfied"
with the work of its Enron Task Force. This task force
has secured indictments of 19 former executives. Is
this a justice system with integrity?
You asked several questions. The last one asks about
the integrity of the justice system. In a word,
the answer is YES, there is integrity in our system.
Were it not the case, questions like yours and columns
like mine would never be in print. We do have freedom
of the press in the United States and we can ask
hard questions, openly.
Take heart, it is not over for Skilling and Lay,
at least, not yet. Apart from headlines, the investigation
continues. Many students of the law who are observers
of the Enron mess believe that criminal charges
may yet be filed against one or both of these individuals,
and relatively soon. If you are frustrated by the
very slow pace of the investigation, you are not
alone. The eight or nine federal prosecutors who
make up the task force of the Justice Department
have been assisted by about 30 agents of the Federal
Bureau of Investigation. They have been working
on this case since January 2002. These kinds of
investigations are complicated and take time.
Progress is being made: Andrew Fastow, Enron's
former chief financial officer, faces 99 counts
ranging from obstruction of justice to money laundering.
Also, a result of this investigative process, Enron's
auditor, Arthur Andersen, was found guilty in a
June, 2002, in a jury trial of obstruction of justice.
There are reports that Mr. Lay, 61, loomed large
in Houston philanthropic circles and was a top contributor
to President Bush's 2000 campaign. Both Skilling
and Lay maintain that they knew nothing about the
fraud of Enron.
If there was fraud, and there is little evidence
to deny gross mismanagement, perhaps criminal intent,
by those leading Enron, and still they say that
they knew nothing about it, then their board should
have fired them for incompetence. If they did have
knowledge and are lying, then the justice system
can address appropriate penalties. If the leaders
knew, and the members of the board knew, and no
one blew the whistle, then our federal prisons systems
may consider building lots more cells. So very much
of what makes our country "tick" revolves around
uncomplicated behaviors: we make promises and we
keep them. We go the extra mile when necessary and
we support one another in hard times. We enjoy success
and we avoid excess. We value employees and serve
customers. Leaders own the defeats and failures
and pass along to others the credit for victories.
When these unwritten rules of management and labor
integrity are broken, our system of checks and balances
will rise up to make things right. Integrity-centered
responsibility reminds each and every participant
in the free market system that we must maintain
the proper balance between legitimate self-interest
and social responsibility. Destructive and self-serving
greed must be regulated.
Community involvement, the dues we pay for the
privileges of economic and personal fulfillment,
must be encouraged. When our system misses the mark
and does not live up to its promises for every citizen,
then we must stand up and be counted. Phrases like
"whistle blowers" and "snitches" need to be replaced
with more appropriate and noble terms like "character
coaches" and "mentors of the free market" - for
the magic of renewing our society rests with how
we accept important and inevitable input, even when
it is critical. We must be willing to hear the evil,
see the evil and then make it better.
"Younger executives and
I am a 52 year-old president of a pretty successful
young semiconductor company. Of the twenty companies
the venture capital group who funded us has helped
to launch, ours is currently the most successful.
We have an industry-wide reputation for excellent
product and service quality; five quarters of strong
profitability; good prospects for the future; employee
and customer loyalty; and, an experienced and professional
management team. We are doing well.
Here is my problem: recently, with 19 other colleagues,
each a president of a company in this venture capital
firm's portfolio, we were invited to attend a conference
where each of us was asked to mention the key attribute
for building a successful company. Perhaps it was
because I was the oldest executive at the meeting,
for my opinion was the first one requested to start
the conversation. Without hesitation, I nominated
my number one leadership success attribute: INTEGRITY.
Can you imagine my shock when more than half of
my peers, mostly in their mid to late 30's laughed
out-loud? A few others snickered. And the group
rushed to replace my word choice of integrity and
fill the unsettling silence with other terms like:
intensity, competitiveness, long hours, intellect,
power network, and a respected MBA.
What is wrong when this type of thinking becomes
the norm? Don't people care about integrity?
Everything is wrong when those with power, who are
also in authority, refuse to respect the human equation
in success of any kind. Too many people with executive
titles admire rude, calculating and self-serving
behavior. Unfortunately, your experience with certain
of your colleagues is not unique to business and
management. Fortunately, ruthlessness is not yet
the norm; but, it is gaining on decency. Even so,
a significant number of people still care about
Just a few weeks ago, the sports news told of a
recent high-school graduate being drafted into the
National Basketball Association. Instead of paying
tribute to his coaches, who helped him refine his
skills over the years, he thanked himself. Rather
than offer any appreciation for family and friends
who may have gone the extra mile for this gifted
young man, he congratulated himself. This is the
behavior of someone who believes he is truly self-made.
Immature, short-sighted and selfish are terms that
come to mind. Another description of this style
is arrogant. Unfortunately, this self-centered behavior
often continues into adulthood. Sometimes selfishness
is obvious in the greed of those gaining wealth
and power, made even more obvious by their cruel
and vicious comments to those whose values differ
from their own. Other times, self-serving behaviors
can be seen in temper tantrums by "adults" behaving
like over-indulged children.
Have you ever played golf with a club thrower?
They hit a shot that disappoints them and they let
fly; sometimes with brutal language, and at other
times with a club. They have allowed their emotions
to get the better of them. They fly off the handle.
For those who have taken golf lessons, they know
that it can be very difficult to predict where a
golf club will land once it has been tossed. Controlling
a club toss would be made even more unpredictable
were the individual upset. I happen to know that
club throwing, of any kind, is a dangerous luxury.
At age 15, living in Macon, Missouri, one of my
favorite summertime activities was playing croquet.
I loved to practice rolling the ball across the
lawn and making an excellent cross-court shot. One
warm August afternoon, alone at practice, a neighborhood
dog chose "my croquet court" for his afternoon break.
In times past, cleaning up after the animal was
not so serious, a minor intrusion on practice time.
However, dusk only allowed a few more rounds and
I was not willing to allow the dog his space. So,
unsuccessful in chasing the dog away with a yell,
I tossed the wooden croquet mallet in the general
direction of the invader.
Unbelievably, the handle of the mallet hit the
ground and catapulted thirty feet sideways, stunning
our neighbor's family pet. Being thirty feet off
line is no surprise to me, especially when I recall
some of my golf shots these days. Shocked and panicked,
I ran to the animal, carried him to the neighbor's
front door and explained in tearful apology what
happened to their dog, and accompanied them to the
veterinarian. Then came the long walk home; where,
my parents had been horrified and embarrassed observers.
Suffice it to say, I was grounded, with no croquet
for quite a while. But, the lesson about self control
has never left me. It is not the right thing to
Sometimes damaging behavior is obvious, such as
when we see a golf club or croquet mallet thrown.
Other times, we might injure those within earshot
with a verbal hand-grenade, a yell, a cutting comment
or condescending laugh. Immature and cruel behavior
rots the roots of confidence so necessary for healthy
relationships and for those building integrity-centered
So, think before acting verbally and non-verbally.
These are tough times for many people. So, listen
carefully and caringly to others before reacting
and minimize premature and immature responses. Don't
carelessly throw a condemning word at a well-meaning
Please remember: Integrity is the keystone of leadership.
It is reflected in discussions, decisions, directives
and diagnostics. Leadership emerges from listening,
demonstrates character in behavior, and leverages
energy with integrity. Integrity is the stabilizing
factor that sustains effort and causes energy to
create the canopy for accomplishment. Integrity
enables the achievement of Vision. Because integrity
matters, lend support and add strength to those
building for the future.
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on August
"Integrity of a sport in the hands of the players"
The newspaper today had an article in the sports
section which described how Winston Cup driver Jimmy
Spencer rear-ended fellow driver Kurt Busch at the
Michigan International Speedway in pit row after
the race and then got out of his race car, ran to
Busch's car, reached in and punched Busch several
times before being restrained. Busch reportedly
has a broken nose. One or more other drivers were
said to have supported Jimmy Spencer, which seems
to reward irresponsible behavior. What does this
say about the integrity of this sport?
First, one person losing his temper is not saying
anything negative about an entire sport. Two individuals
were engaged in an altercation. Yes, immature behavior
does say something about those who are engaged in
it. These two world-class racecar drivers, Busch
and Spencer, have had run-ins on the track in the
past. In March 2002, at Bristol Motor Speedway,
Busch bumped past Spencer to get his first Winston
Cup victory. There have been several on-course incidents
since, but not physical confrontations.
Allowing competitive frustrations to boil over
into violent acts defeats the purpose of sports
competition. Once upon a time, sports were viewed
as the socially acceptable way for warring factions,
even ancient cities, to work out their frustrations
with one another. Bragging rights on the sports
field replaced dead bodies on the battlefield. We
hope our progress in the past continues and does
not regress in to random acts of violence, road
rage being but one example.
Second, having attended a NASCAR race, the Brickyard
400 at Indianapolis, it is incredible that more
bumps don't become catastrophes. Lots of money is
at stake for each finishing position, to say nothing
of the points earned for standings in the annual
championship race. Points mean dollars, millions
and millions of them. Being pushed out of contention,
inappropriately, is serious business. These automobiles
move like rockets with wheels, only inches from
one another, sometimes three across into skidding
turns. Competition is fierce. The physical and mental
stresses must be overwhelming. Any mistake or miscalculation
can risk significant rewards, even life itself.
This is not simply a game; it is the livelihood,
perhaps even the life, of those capable of handling
Third, is this the end of the "race-track" feud?
Will it now escalate until someone is seriously
injured or killed? Cheap shots and cheating in any
part of life, including sports, violate the integrity
of creating a level playing field. When lethal weapons
in a driver's hands, in the form of pieces of steel
capable to moving nearly 200 miles per hour, are
directed at doing harm, disaster cannot be far behind.
Fifty-four years ago, a neighbor, also four years
old at the time, joined me to watch my father build
a fence. Dad was busy digging holes, placing posts
in the ground and nailing boards. For some reason
the little fellow, Jimmy, decided to see if the
hammer my father had be using would reshape the
back of my skull. It did. My scream alerted Dad
that all was not well. Blood streaming down my face
was a problem. As he carried me toward the car,
on the way to the hospital, the mother of the little
Jimmy "hammer slammer" was heard asking in a loud
voice, "Who hit first?" Both of my parents told
many years later that they had been horrified with
It did not last for a long time, but little Jimmy
and I did not play together for a while. And when
we did, things were back to normal, except for the
bump on my head. Even so, it was never appropriate
for me to retaliate. Nor did my parents carry a
grudge. Rather, the incident in our family was a
lesson in manners, graciousness and care for those
about us: both parents and children. Misjudgments
happen. Young people and adults make mistakes. Situations
find remedies. And, so too should the folks at NASCAR.
We are taught that two wrongs do not make a right.
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on August
"Like or not, telemarketers have
job to do"
My telephone still rings, night after night, with
pushy telemarketers. I thought some laws were passed
that had put a stop to their calls. But, they still
call when we are eating dinner and sometimes after
we have gone to bed. I work an early shift and sometimes
am exhausted by 9:00 p.m.; and they call as late
as 9:40 at night. Being awakened by a computer-dialed
phone is ridiculous. What kinds of people expect
others to buy from them when they are constantly
hounding us at night? Isn't there something wrong
with their integrity when they operate like this?
I don't even want them to call me and I am not sure
how to get rid of them. Slamming the phone down
is wrong, but what else can I do? My own way of
treating people does not allow me to be rude, but
this type of abuse is wrong. Can you help me?
The telemarketing industry has become more aggressive
in recent years. Its intensity and insensitivity
have caused many of its potential clients and customers
to react in ways similar to your own. You are not
alone in being frustrated and irritated by their
intrusive and incessant calling. They have seemed
to be operating without any regard to the consumers.
Comedians have made jokes about this process and
have suggested placing the receiver of the phone
down, after they interrupt your evening, and indicate
that you need to pick up a pencil and paper, only
to ignore them until the line goes dead - wasting
their time and reducing your stress by not listening
Humorous as this might appear, it is not a proper
response; certainly it is not integrity-centered.
Such tempting behavior is not gracious. Those who
are working for a telemarketing firm need to find
customers. This is how they are trying to make a
living and it is not appropriate to make their lives
miserable because their approach is making our lives
miserable. And even if we are upset that they are
wasting our time, still we ought not to get-back
at them with a time-wasting prank.
There is a better way, really an integrity-centered
way, to handle unwanted phone solicitation. As you
may know, on October 1, 2003, a new law goes into
effect, as a part of the "National Do Not Call Registry"-
and it will fine telemarketers as much as $11,000
each time they call someone listed on the federal
do-not-call listing. The Federal Trade Commission
is offering a toll free number and access to a website
to STOP THE CALLS. Here is how to register with
the Do Not Call Registry: (888) 382-1222; or register
through the web at: www.donotcall.gov
One good reason to act soon is that consumers,
like you and me, must sign up by August 31, 2003,
to be on the registry by October 1, 2003. Those
who sign up thereafter will have to wait three months
before their numbers appear on the registry. In
the coming weeks, households can expect to be deluged
with phone solicitations as telemarketers try to
establish relationships before the registry goes
into effect. The FTC already is getting reports
that telemarketing call volume has soared. And,
after October 1, those who have not signed up for
the registry can expect a flood of calls as marketers
zero in on them.
According to a Los Angeles Times news story, written
by David Streitfeld, the telemarketers are pleased
with this new regulation. At least that is what
the spokespeople are saying. They say it will greatly
simplify their operations by drawing a line between
those who don't want to be called and all the others,
who the telemarketers will assume are eager to talk.
Some of the major telemarketers support the registry
because they say that they believe in the consumers'
right to be left alone.
However, these same organizations have lobbyists
who feel differently. The American Teleservices
and Direct Marketing associations have filed lawsuits
to stop the registry which they say is a violation
of free speech. They also say that the registry
will ruin the telemarketing industry.
Because the telemarketing industry did not regulate
itself, (it became too intrusive and abusive of
people's time at home, especially during the evening);
then the government stepped in with a legislative
response; specifically, The Do Not Call Registry.
The people, you and others, know that when free
markets do not regulate themselves, then those frustrations
will be communicated to those in authority, essentially
asking and demanding the necessary controls be instituted
by the government. Here is an instance where our
government has responded with controls and regulations.
"Coca-Cola Executive Resigns After
In the Business section of The Californian on Tuesday,
August 26, 2003, it was reported that a Coca-Cola
executive, Mr. Tom Moore, oversaw the division that
rigged a marketing test to fool Burger King and
will step down from his position. His actions were
described as a scandal. Mr. Moore, president of
the foodservice and hospitality division of Coke,
the world's largest beverage maker, will remain
at the company to train his successor, Mr. Chris
If he was cheating a client by rigging test results,
what is the company thinking about when it decides
to have him train his successor? What message are
they sending? Is this integrity-centered leadership
No, it is not. Coke admitted in June that some of
its workers manipulated the results of a test of
the frozen soft drink in 2000 to win Burger King's
business. Allegations of fraud by a former Coca-Cola
employee resulted in a federal grand jury probe.
Earlier this month (August of 2003), Coca-Cola agreed
to pay Burger King and its operators more than $20
million to settle a dispute over the rigged test.
To drive the point home and clarify why an integrity-centered
standard might improve the behavior of corporate
leadership, let's look at this response by Coca-Cola's
actions in this situation and evaluate them according
to these eight attributes:
1. CHARACTER: consistency between word and deed.
Did the leaders of Coca-Cola exhibit congruence
between what they say and what
they do, as well as what they say about what they
did? Do leaders exhibit the right
THIS DECISION SETS A VERY POOR EXAMPLE
2. HONESTY: truthful communication.
Do you still have confidence that Coke's leaders
would never engage in or sanction misrepresentation?
CREDIBILITY IS DAMAGED
3. OPENNESS: operational transparency.
Is appropriate information about the way Coca-Cola
handled this situation readily available? Answer:
PROBABLY YES, BUT PERHAPS ONLY BECAUSE OF THE RULE
OF LAW AND THE MEDIA COVERAGE
4. AUTHORITY: employee encouragement.
Are Coca-Cola employees able to correct a customer
problem, including fraudulent test results reporting?
Do these employees have confidence that their actions
will be supported? Answer:
UNCLEAR FROM THIS EVENT
5. PARTNERSHIP: honor obligations.
Does Coca-Cola pride itself on timely fulfillment
of all commitments?
NOT IN THIS INSTANCE
6. PERFORMANCE: accountability throughout the organization.
When individuals, including senior executives, under-perform
repeatedly, are they given due process and then,
if necessary, replaced? Answer:
FROM PUBLISHED ACCOUNTS, THE ANSWER WOULD SEEM TO
CHARITY: generous community stewardship.
Does your organization reach out to those in need?
UNCLEAR FROM THIS SITUATION AND NOT DIRECTLY RELATED
TO COKE'S CHARITIES
8. GRACIOUSNESS: respect and discipline.
Did Coca-Cola demonstrate care and concern for all
FROM PUBLISHED ACCOUNTS, THE ANSWER WOULD SEEM TO
INTEGRITY-CENTERED LEADERSHIP ASSUMES RESPONSIBILITY
AND BEHAVES HONORABLY, REGULATING ITSELF AND ITS
Coca-Cola knows proper behavior, as do most institutions.
In this situation they forgot to implement their
own core values and their culture might have been
better served if they had immediately discharged
the offending executive, to ensure that the right
message was given internally. We must remember that
employees observe not only the fraudulent behavior
of the executive, but watch carefully and learn
from the organization's response. By keeping the
offender on long enough to train a replacement,
Coke might have given the message that the only
thing wrong with what he did was getting caught
at it. The key to restoring trust throughout our
society centers in doing what we know to be right.
Not once; all the time, every time. Remember, Integrity
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on September
"NYSE chief's big payday smells
The board of the New York Stock Exchange decided
to pay its top administrator a gigantic amount of
money. Perhaps you will comment on the $140 million
accumulated back pay and benefits paid to Richard
Grasso, chairman and chief executive. Who will pay
for these obscene fees? It is the little people,
Chairman Richard Grasso's acceptance of the $139.5
million has reignited the debate over standards
of governance at the world's largest stock exchange.
His package is greater than the NYSE's total net
income for the past three years. Though perfectly
legal, the huge payout feeds the public's perception
of Wall Street as a rigged game that enriches a
few big players, while small investors get bilked.
Who is responsible for this gigantic compensation?
It's the Board of Directors of the New York Stock
Exchange. The board appears to have acted very generously,
possibly irresponsibly, certainly insensitively.
For starters those rewarding Grasso (the compensation
committee and board) are individuals and organizations
over whom he has regulatory authority and responsibility.
This has some parallel to a group of motorists directly
rewarding the police officer who has the authority
to enforce traffic laws.
Where the money is coming from might become clearer
when we know that a group of 1,366 seat-holders
of the NYSE is planning a lawsuit for force Grasso
to renegotiate his controversial pay package. If
they feel on the hook for Grasso's wind-fall then
some of their customers -- e.g. individual investors
--may feel the sting of costs that can be legally
Here is what we do know: Free markets must regulate
themselves or governments will. It does not take
a rocket scientist to recognize that oversight committees
and other similarly chartered organizations have
a responsibility to protect themselves and the public
from both real and perceived of conflicts of interest.
Whether Grasso is overpaid is not the concern of
this column. However, the appearance of becoming
compromised in the pursuit of oversight harms the
enterprise and can demoralize an investing public
already discouraged by the bombardment of news that
continues reporting scandalous behaviors throughout
By way of summary, here are some of the integrity-related
Grasso's first duty is to set a good example. His
pay package does anything but. It serves as a tacit
endorsement of NYSE companies that have paid executives
lavishly while their firms have languished. His
acceptance of a big payment financed by the companies
he regulates creates the appearance of a conflict
Worst of all, though, Grasso's pay undermines the
NYSE's own efforts to promote corporate reform.
It has offered a number of proposals to encourage
corporate boards to stand up to their CEOs and hold
top executives more accountable. Yet the nine-figure
compensation suggests a board only too eager to
please its own chairman.
Greed is hardly new or surprising. But its display
by a public watchdog such as the New York Stock
Exchange suggests Wall Street may still have a long
way to go to clean up its act. When leaders ignore
the importance of maintaining a proper balance between
self-interest and social responsibility, the free
market is at risk.
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on September
"It's essential for our culture
to curb greed"
You are a consultant. What is your response about
the level of integrity exhibited by the Wall Street
consultant-economist, Peter Davis, who has pleaded
guilty to fraud and conspiracy? According to what
has been written, he attended confidential Treasury
Department news conferences and then rushed, using
a cell phone, to notify Goldman Sachs about sensitive,
advance information regarding the bond market, where
they made $3.8 million in illegal profits. It seems
that the extra-eight minute edge on the rest of
the market that his information provided to the
crooks at Goldman Sachs was enough time to provide
this wealthy firm with even more profit taking opportunities.
Is this behavior common place on Wall Street? What
does this behavior say about consultants?
Dear Wall Street Observer,
Integrity is never for sale. Mr. Peter Davis has
admitted that he is guilty of violating trust and
cheating. He deserves to suffer the consequences
of his actions. However, what about his fellow participants
from Goldman Sachs? They accepted illegal insider
information. How disappointing for the financial
industry and our society. This particular incident
comes on the heels of the board of directors of
the New York Stock Exchange approving a $139.5 million
controversial pay package for its chief executive,
Mr. Richard Grasso. Neither of these events will
help restore confidence in the leadership of our
nation's investment community. Without a balance
between self-interest and social responsibility,
greed displaces responsible leadership behavior.
Honest individuals, in any walk of life, including
consultants like me, are diminished by the destructive
and selfish behaviors of those who work in their
field of endeavor. A colleague who violates accepted
standards of conduct infects reputation and stature,
sometimes a little and at other times, very seriously.
Corruption and misbehavior, whether illegal or simply
inappropriate, erode confidence and trust between
and among members of a community -whether small
or large, business or social, political or religious.
What each person says and does really matters.
The good news, according to a report from the Associated
Press, about this situation is that the United States
Attorney, Mr. James Comey has said, "A scheme
to steal confidential information from the Treasury
Department and tip off others shakes the confidence
of the investing public and it is not to be tolerated."
Mr. Davis violated the embargo, meaning that he
was obligated not to disclose any information ahead
The proof of Mr. Comey's comments regarding not
tolerating such behavior will become real when those
who were involved with Mr. Davis, from Goldman Sachs,
are identified and dealt with effectively. Until
this type of behavior is rooted out and all participants
are brought to justice, the word scapegoat is not
far below the surface. Controlling greed and selfishness
is essential in order for our culture to be sustained.
Democracy and free market capitalism depend upon
the constancy of integrity - throughout the system.
Integrity is the keystone for sustaining our social,
economic, and cultural structure.
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on November
"Working relationships require
some give, take"
Is this an integrity issue? My boss expects me to
be on time, every time. She is almost never on time
for her meetings with me. My frustration is that when
her schedule messes up mine, the people who depend
on me to not make them wait; well, they get upset
with me. If I say anything about my boss not being
respectful of my time and how that causes me to be
late and disrespectful to others, then I am being
unprofessional and disloyal. I have mentioned to her
my commitment to not make others wait. She nods and
continues her meeting. Abuse of time is not right.
Is this violating integrity? Certainly, time costs
money. Wasting other people's time is irresponsible.
Many wise leaders believe that working
effectively requires relationships built upon respect
and trust. Pressure to perform is great enough without
adding the stresses related to making others wait
simply because time commitments are ignored. Emergencies
are understood to be the exception. However, some
individuals seem to thrive on their tight and tardy
schedules. Flying in at the last minute, scrambling
for papers and reports, they destroy whatever order
might have been necessary for others to function
To make matters worse, many flagrant violators
of time seem oblivious to the pain they cause others.
This insensitivity runs head-first into how partners
- whether colleagues or bosses, friends or family
members - ought to treat one another to enhance
trust, respect and productivity. The snowball rolling
down the hill is what happens. By the end of the
working day, those affected by the clock-wasters
can be demoralized. Their plans for managing their
efforts have been interrupted, even destroyed. Expending
energies in shuffling and adjusting schedules to
accommodate the undisciplined leaders takes a toll.
Is such behavior an integrity issue? Yes. Each
partner in a relationship, at work or at home, professional
or personal, is obligated to show appreciation for
the needs of the other. Wasting time, needlessly,
is destructive. Partners cannot plan with confidence
how best to use their energies. Subordinates in
an organization will not maximize productivity when
commitments are missed, especially time commitments.
Mutual respect suffers. Attitudes of those whose
schedules are torn apart will seldom improve.
So, what can be done? Start and end your own meetings
on time. Clarify to those who violate time that
you need to know what level of rudeness that they
find acceptable. If their definition is different
from yours, then you will need to make a decision
about the lengths to which you will go to keep the
relationship alive (personal or professional). After
asking for tardy people to behave differently and
finding responses unsatisfactory, you will know
what to do. If an individual or an organization
does not have pride on the timely fulfillment of
all commitments, including time, then partnership
is difficult, if not impossible. Respect time is
an integrity matter. Partners honor obligations.
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on September
"Accountability and Leadership"
I work for an executive who has always been held
in high esteem, but just recently he submitted an
expense item for me to o.k., for reimbursement,
that I believe to be personal. This involved an
expensive dinner with friends and for which there
was no business purpose, not even relationship-building,
as their personal friendship is well established.
Of course, he could and no doubt would justify it
as a legitimate business expense if challenged,
and my push back would be seen as a complaint. Chances
are that the conversation between us would not yield
any results other than irritation for everyone concerned.
When someone who has been held in high esteem disappoints
us, it is natural to feel disappointment, sometimes
even anger. When we perceive values, small or large,
are violated, one or both of the parties involved
can feel a tear in the relationship-fabric of mutual
faith and confidence. The breaking of a trust, in
this instance, the inappropriate use of company
funds, can signal that a halo of an individual with
perceived integrity was tarnished. Casual or irresponsible
behavior about what is and what is not a proper
use of a business expense account can shatter an
otherwise worthy reputation. It sounds as if your
role in the company places you in a position to
exercise your fiduciary responsibility for the conduct
of others, even some who are held in high esteem.
You have determined that this individual has exercised
poor judgment. Without knowing your area of responsibility,
it sounds as if you are simply carrying out tasks
related to your job. You are sensitive to wasting
money, at any level and for any reason. You are
looking out for the stockholders' interests who
expect responsible management to be good stewards
of their investment dollars. Further, without profits
and proper cash flow, financial abuses will lower
profits and risk the jobs of fellow employees. Casual
business behaviors are seldom wise and they can
be devastating in financial areas, whether on the
income or expense side.
But, let's get back to your dilemma. What is the
integrity-centered action in this instance? First,
let's check this situation carefully. In general,
I've found it helpful to view such matters as isolated
incidents from this perspective:
If it happens once, it is an event. If it happens
twice, it is a pattern. If it happens a third time,
it is a habit, and habits are very hard to break.
If the executive in question has not been sloppy
with expenses before, then it may be prudent to
ask if this expense item was an oversight. If the
leader's "halo" is still in place and you are correct
that the meal should not be charged to the company,
then mentioning the issue should allow the other
person, and not you, to rectify the error. Sometimes
a simple question, "Did you mean to do this?" will
remind the executive that he or she lives in a fishbowl,
and that their behavior is being observed and emulated.
As a consequence, leaders' behaviors are open to
question, if only for clarification. With a basically
honorable person, such a reminder will be sufficient.
Their response will also tell you a great deal about
whether this was an incident, a pattern or a habit.
If the executive's behavior is habitual, you will
want to extricate yourself from that situation.
Sooner or later, habitual abusers of funds, small
or large, will do harm to the enterprise. They will
create enough distrust that increased regulations
will be required and new rules will relationships
and stifle motivation. Integrity matters 24 hours
a day, 7 days a week. Leaders are role models, for
better or worse, on purpose or by accident.
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 8,
"Credit card fees preying upon the poor and
Bob Herbert, a writer for the New York Times, states
that our "nation is awash in credit debt" and he
describes a family trapped in the vicious cycle
of escalating costs. He tells the story of Julie
and Jerry Pickett of Middletown, Ohio, who are still
paying for groceries bought for their family years
ago. They are trapped in the iron grasp of credit
card debt, and he describes their situation as similar
to problems faced in earlier days in this country
when poorer people were loan-sharking victims. Are
these credit card companies operating with integrity?
Unfortunately, the financial institutions which
prey upon the poor would appear to be breaking no
laws. Are they operating with integrity? Further
analysis of the situation you describe could shed
light on the some of the issues.
First, thank you for prompting me to read Mr. Bob
Herbert's September 24, 2003, column. What he described
was and is disturbing. After reading his thoughts,
social issues raised that must not be swept under
the rug in the name of making a buck. He tells us
that people used to be jailed for what credit-card
companies now do legally. While banks and money
markets are currently paying little interest to
consumers, it is common for the effective annual
percentage rate for balances on a friendly credit
card to approach 30 percent. In the past this was
an illegal practice called usury.
Mr. Herbert's statistics present a grim reality
for many in our society. Between 1989 and 2001,
"credit-card debt nearly tripled from $238 billion
to $692 billion as many people resort to using credit
cards to fight the ravages of unemployment and avoid
disaster, while others battle the gap between declining
real wages and rising home and essential health
care costs. The savings rate steadily declined;
bankruptcies jumped 125 percent, and the credit-card
debt of the average family increased by 53 percent.
For middle-class families, the increase was 75 percent.
For senior citizens, it was 149 percent; and, families
with annual incomes below $10,000 increased a staggering
According to Mr. Herbert, credit card companies
have leapt gleefully, into an orgy of exploitation,
with late fees the fastest growing source of revenue
for the industry. This fee category jumped from
$1.7 billion in 1996 to $7.3 billion in 2002. Late
fees now average $29, and most cards have reduced
the late payment grace period from 14 days to zero
days. In addition to charging late fees, the major
credit card companies use the first late payment
as an excuse to cancel low, introductory rates;
often making a zero percent card jump to between
22 and 29 percent. One ought not to assume that
all credit card institutions behave this way. The
information reported does suggest that increased
monitoring might be constructive.
Since high rates are now legal, we must appeal
to some sense of fair play, of ethical and moral
behavior. Right thinking cannot accept this endless
and costly treadmill for the less fortunate. It
is not an appropriate dilemma for the poor, the
less educated or the elderly. Something is "out
of whack" when shrewd and financially-gifted business
decision-makers take advantage of the misery and
misfortune of others. If such cruel and heartless
business practices continue, free markets will suffer.
Trust will deteriorate, even further. The hope for
living the American dream might seem further away,
and the children of our grandchildren might only
read in history books what could have been their
birthright: freedom and free markets! Simply because
high rates are legal does not make them right. Integrity
suggests that credit card institutions could lead
the way in offering constructive solutions for these
borrowers before it is too late. Here is an illustration
where there is a real need to balance self-interest
with social responsibility.
Without a motivated middle class there is no stability
for this or any society. When the erosion of confidence
out-paces the reward systems in place, chaos might
become a way of life. Without mutual trust throughout
our social and economic system, productivity declines
along with confidence and motivation. Regulations
can never replace relationships. However, when forced
into a survival mode by greedy lenders, law makers
will be forced to further regulate behaviors. There
is still time to make things right and those who
operate with and demand integrity-centered leadership
behavior will need to lead the way. If those who
prey upon the less fortunate do not change their
ways, our society will wake up and demand even more
stifling regulations, adding bureaucracy, with other,
unanticipated, consequences. Unless behavior changes,
regulation may be the only way out of the current
abusive mess. Free markets must regulate themselves,
or governments will. Integrity is what matters.
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 15,
"Profanity on Network Television"
I do not blush when people use rough language,
but are you aware of the words polluting prime-time
television? In fact, Parents Television Council
(PTC), a watchdog group reports that during the
early evening hours from 8 to 9p.m., the so-called
"family hour" - foul language increased
by 94.8% between 1998 and 2002; and it grew by 109%
during the 9 p.m. hour in the same period. The jump
in profanity occurred on "virtually every network"
and in every time slot.
How do we protect our young from this foul language?
This is more than dumbing-down; this is pollution,
filth and culture assassination coming into our
own homes. Where is the integrity of television?
Integrity is very much at the heart of this issue,
on several levels.
First, society appears to have become more
aggressive, language has hardened and so have our
levels of tolerance for harsh vocabulary. Perhaps
the question to be addressed is this: does television
lead society or reflect the behaviors of the public?
It starts with language used by parents with children.
If you have not gone to an amusement park in a few
years, prepare yourself for some shocking experiences.
Recently, my wife and I were checking in at the
Boston's Logan Airport. About five minutes into
our wait, a woman and teenage boy began screaming
at one another The violent language escalated into
ugly behaviors between what we learned a few minutes
later was a mother and her son. We picked up our
carry-on luggage preparing to move toward safety,
unsure of events.
The lobby area was filled with hundreds of travelers.
A hush settled into this disturbing environment.
The many agents at the check-in counters stopped
processing passengers. Then, the teenager abruptly
exited from the area; an airline employee assisted
the distraught woman. As we reached the counter,
the reasons for the rude son and the angry mother's
behavior was made clear. The agents at the counter
were ready to throttle the youngster and were saddened
that the mother had suffered such embarrassment.
The boy had begun screaming at his mother for being
too stupid to check-in electronically. Unable to
complete the transaction, she retaliated,
and the battle was on. The agents felt she had every
right to yell back. The mother and son's language
that morning was worse than anything we have ever
heard on television.
How parents ought to behave is a topic for another
column. This particular mother-son event did not
erupt in isolation. It could not have been pleasant
for either participant, nor certainly for those
observing. One can hope that children witnessing
behaviors were soon reassured by more nurturing
parents. Unlike television, this drama could not
be turned off or unplugged.
Second, today's television family hour has
more than three channel options. So, the profanity
statistics may be drawing dramatic conclusions about
increases in profanity that may not reflect the
reality of people's channel selections. Further.
television has too often become a baby-sitter, mesmerizing
children with its multi-sensory charms as parents
have abdicate responsibility what is shown in their
homes. Whose integrity is on trial? Parents or the
corporation selling programs that the buying public
is demanding? Frankly, when we do not like a program,
we can change channels—or even turn off the
television. We can remember that reading, listening
to music, and sharing ideas are all positive by-products
of a non-television evening.
Keep in mind that if television programs were not
satisfying sponsors, they would change. After all,
those who sponsor programs on television do market
research to ensure that their advertising dollars
attract more customers. Somehow, the economic system
of television is meeting market needs. If television
programs are not satisfying your needs, then pull
the plug. And, if that does not satisfy you, then
write to local station managers and elected officials
and make your concerns known
Third, if television does not regulate itself
in relation to society's values, then regulators
will. But there is this question of you: does television
pollute the culture or has the deteriorating values
of the society set the tone? Our recent experience
in an airport lobby may not be unique. It is time
for social behavior, even within a family, to become
more gracious and less destructive. Decide to exhibit
interpersonal integrity all the time, monitor what
programs are acceptable in your home; foster this
commitment among your friends and associates, and
anticipate that the television industry will follow.
When good taste dominates our culture, smart business
will fall into line.
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 18,
"Board of Directors and Integrity"
Mr. Grasso is history, at least as far as the New
York Stock Exchange is concerned. While Mr. Grasso
may be guilty of helping design an overly generous
compensation program for himself at the expense
of his member companies (and therefore widows, orphans
and pension funds), the real culprits are the directors
of the NYSE approved the plans. These directors
clearly failed to do their job. How would you describe
a good director for a good board at a good company?
You have asked for answers to three questions, about
what makes for a good director, a good board and
a good company. The answers involve integrity-centered
First, we look at good directors. They are
effective based upon their insight, impact, and
integrity. Good directors understand the
company (its products, services, markets and financial
health); respond to the needs of all stakeholders;
and, exhibit courage even in the face of strong
Good directors work hard to understand the
enterprise and management that they have been asked
to guide. Directors hire and fire chief executives
and set their pay packages. They earn their own
salaries by preparing for and responsibly attending
their board and committee meetings. Good directors
are committed to the effectiveness of their involvement.
They wrestle hard issues to the ground and do not
rest until proper resolution has been attained.
Good directors seldom plead ignorance. They
do exhibit courage.
Let us look at some recent high profile scandals.
In the Enron debacle, the outside directors didn't
dig deeply enough to understand and question the
complex financial structures that were created and
the risks associated with them. In the case of the
NYSE there may have been an integrity issue since
many of the board members were employed by the very
companies that they, the NYSE and Mr. Grasso were
charged with regulating. In the cases of WorldCom
and Tyco the directors apparently knew about the
loans to Ebbers and excesses by Kozloski but did
not courageously confront something they knew was
wrong. In the case of the insider case against Martha
Stewart, the allegations suggest that integrity
was ignored in favor of greed.
What is so striking about these headline cases
suggesting impropriety, misbehavior or malfeasance
is the similarity of the creeping scandalous behavior
to the description of the five progressive stages
- stage one, after several drinks, the drinker
- stage two, a couple of more drinks, the drinker
becomes charming and affectionate;
- stage three, as alcoholic consumption continues,
the drinker believes that no one can see their
clumsy behaviors or notice the slurring of words;
- stage four the alcohol level rises, and the
partaker is now convinced of their own invincibility
and immunity to rules that apply to others;
- stage five, the lights begin to go out and the
behavior spirals out of control. The substance
abuser may well end up in a cell doing time, either
because of actual harm caused to others, or because
of the violation of public drunkenness laws.
We have seen one small step of greed or power after
another leading to the scandals that parallel intoxication.
This demonstrates that power may insidiously corrupt
those who attain it. And again, with the Sarbanes
Oxley Act, we see that unless individuals and institutions
regulate themselves, governments will.
A good director, then, is that person whose
character, values, insight and knowledge create
positive and purposeful influence with colleagues
on the board.
On the subject of a good board, these exhibit
and encourage independence, interdependence, directness
(confrontation) and relationships built upon mutual
trust and respect. 75% of the board members should
be outsiders. No Board member should be so captivated
by the organization's influence, or that of suppliers
or customers, that alignment with the needs of shareholders
and other stakeholders is compromised. Good boards
want and need oversight, never to be rubber stamps
for powerful executives and their teams. This professional
independence does not mean that a bank's board member
might not have a small account at the bank, or that
a board member of General Electric might not have
been using GE light bulbs or watching NBC television
stations. Nor does this independence require an
adversarial board atmosphere. Independence simply
means providing the environment for confronting
issues openly and honestly, all the time.
Interdependence is also a hallmark of good boards.
Being a strategic partner with management is important.
Company managements need the strategic insights,
ideas, experience and referrals that a good, yet
diverse, board can provide. To be a source of ideas,
which a good board is, the relationships must provide
for responsible give and take.
Good boards attract and retain individuals
who are able to get along, enjoy one another, even
in the midst of strongly differing positions, sustain
substantive relationships built upon mutual respect
and trust. Good boards communicate their
own healthy culture of integrity that includes how
they work together, through tough issues, in a climate
that combines fiduciary responsibility and stakeholder
sensitivity. Good boards insist upon adherence to
the mission of the enterprise, as it is fulfilled
in all activities of the organization.
The diversity of good boards enables creativity,
connections, cultural and market insight, advice,
and counsel. Similarly, good boards are not
afraid to tackle tough issues, openly. Debate, which
implies differing positions, is essential, not optional.
It is important to remember that our college and
university students are being taught by their professors
and from their text books that "the board of directors
is a group of elected individuals whose primary
responsibility is to act in the owners' interests
by formally monitoring and controlling the corporation's
top-level executives." (from Strategic Management,
2003, p. 319; by Hitt, Ireland and Hoskinson) .
The third question, that of a good company
is answered as one that does what it says it will
do, and tells the truth about what it does, seven
days a week and fifty-two weeks a year. The good
company is integrity-centered and exhibits behaviors
that enable its stakeholders to answer yes to the
questions that reflect the eight attributes of an
integrity-centered company developed by the Bracher
consistency between word and deed.
- Do the leaders of your organization exhibit
congruence between what they say and what
they do, as well as what they say about what
- Do you have confidence that your leaders
would never engage in or sanction misrepresentation?
- Is appropriate information about your organization
- Are you able to correct a customer problem?
Do you have confidence that your actions will
Does your organization pride itself on the
timely fulfillment of all commitments?
accountability throughout the organization.
- If individuals, including senior executives,
under-perform repeatedly, are they given due
process and then, if necessary, replaced?
generous community stewardship.
- Does your organization reach out to those
respect and discipline.
- Does your organization demonstrate care
and concern for all stakeholders?
When you find an organization, a good
company, that exhibits these attributes,
there is a good chance, quite probable in fact,
that they will have a good
board and good
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 22,
"Parents, don't do the homework
for your children"
My daughter came home with a story that is appalling
to me. Her friend in her English class at our local
high school turned in a paper on the Supreme Court
and received the only "A" in the class. When I told
my daughter, "That's wonderful," she quickly took
issue, and said that her friend's mother actually
wrote it for her daughter, because the girl was
behind, frantic, and besides, the girl knew her
mother would do it for her .
Jim, what chance does that girl have, if she always
finds someone to do her work for her? Where is our
country's future if the young children of today
are taught that this form of parental fraud is ok?
This is a disappointing story. Assuming your daughter
has the facts accurately, then we are looking at
lying, cheating, stealing and negligence. Your daughter's
friend has a mother who has abdicated leadership
responsibilities as a parent and citizen. Your daughter's
friend has been taught that cheating is ok in order
to win; some other child has likely been denied
the recognition of having created the best paper.
This is simply an awful representation of gross
negligence of parental responsibility.
The daughter is being taught by this example, to
lie to people in positions of responsibility in
order to achieve recognition. She now knows how
to avoid commitments. She is being shown how to
cheat the system in order to win, and worse, is
being assisted in the fraud by her own mother. Parental
negligence is apparent; this young woman is at risk
in lots of ways.
Parental responsibilities include teaching accountability.
Poor school habits have long-term negative consequences,
and should not be replaced by parental interference.
Instead of holding her daughter accountable, this
selfish and shortsighted mother is passing along
the dishonesty that is eating away at our society.
This daughter has been enabled to betray her responsibility
to learn and to perform. She has broken her trust
with her teacher. And, her very own mother is helping
her to run even further from responsibility. This
mother and daughter need help.
However, you can turn this into a learning experience
for your own daughter, using it as a way to put
across the values that you obviously hold, of honesty,
accountability and character. Consider asking your
daughter to think through whether she should be
associating herself with so-called friends who lack
the integrity to do their own work, and ask her
whether her cheating friend could be counted upon
to be honorable in defense of her friends? Would
she ever again trust this girl when she might be
saying "I did this?" Let us hope that the larger
share of your daughter's friends hold to a higher
standard than represented by this story; and you
make sure to use this episode as a way to help your
daughter appreciate the value of integrity.
Without the keystone of integrity beginning within
the family, the structures of our society are at
risk. In this particular set of circumstances, there
is a real issue for this family, the individuals
who know this story, and the people touched by this
young woman in the future. Were this story about
drug abuse, involving a parent purchasing and sharing
illegal drugs with an under-age family member, one
would know immediately which laws were being broken.
However, the heady stuff of false achievement introduced
by the mother's fraudulent actions beg for discovery,
Here is the good news: if you explain why you would
never sanction such plagiarism, your daughter will
have been taught solid values, learned to appreciate
the consequences of dishonest behavior, and see
you in the light of integrity-centered parenting.
Remember, Integrity Matters, all of the time.
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on October 29,
"Athletes using steroids setting
a poor example"
I am offended that some of our most gifted and
privileged athletes have been using THG, an illegal
'designer' steroid product which avoided detection
until now. Athletic competition is supposed to be
about fair play, playing by the rules, honor, etc.
and not about the race to find the latest molecular
wrinkle for a non-detectable performance enhancing
drug? What can be done?
Most importantly, society has not lost integrity
because self-serving and self-destructive sports
figures have chosen to cheat. Yes, certain individuals
have elected to break the rules and they set an
awful example for their honest peers and more importantly
for the younger generation looking toward them as
positive role models. One reporter, who was addressing
this topic of performance enhancing drugs, suggests
that "cheaters will always find another way." Were
this about the paying of taxes, one would accuse
the person a tax evasion. They might be prosecuted,
pay a fine and spend time behind bars; or all three.
Even though cheaters will continue to pursue their
"corner cutting" methods, all is not lost. Integrity-centered
oversight organizations press forward in their relentless
pursuit of honesty and fairness. Over and over,
our caution is clear: unless free markets (and athletes)
regulate themselves, governments will.
Sports competition has become for many only the
prelude for entrepreneurial enterprise, leveraging
physical talent and competition for financial gain.
These peak performers (legal or dishonest) produce
profits for powerful partners. For all too many,
money displaces medals in the escalating battle
for celebrity-driven product sales and profits.
Perhaps the distorted thinking of those involved
in using illegal substances is similar to other
high profile "white collar" criminals. Many of the
them seem to feel that if they can siphon off enough
in their scams to never need to work again, then
they can bask in the glory that greed (at any price)
has gained for them. Perhaps the emotional "rush"
that is provided by legitimate victory is not enough
for them unless it is accompanied with the additional
thrill of having "bilked the system" and cheated
all of the honest participants whom they might refer
to as simply "chumps" – those who play by
the rules. Fortunately, we believe the majority
still play by the rules.
We are not the first to be concerned about destructive
nature of instant gratification. One of the world's
significant spiritual movements is Buddhism. Its
founder, Gautama Buddha, was born into a wealthy
family, with privilege. As his life unfolded he
discovered and then rejected what some describe
as his four passing sights. We might today refer
to these four activities as simply self-absorbing
pursuits. What the young Buddha concluded was that
these activities, in and of themselves, were leading
to dead ends. These four human pursuits were and
are impossible to completely satisfy. Individuals
seldom can acquire enough of pleasure, wealth, fame
and power. A wise advisor cautioned me to be wary
of "things" and to be sure to keep a clear distinction
between owning things and being owned by them. The
challenge is real and seems to never change. "Speed
kills" was a phrase from a previous generation and
it referred to pushing too hard and demanding too
much, of the human body, using drugs. The challenge
is the same for world class athletes who are driven
in their irrational, mindless and sometimes destructive
acquisition performance sports records, of material
wealth emerging from medals that lead to gold. How
much is enough? At what point is playing by the
rules simply the effort of what these con-artists
call "suckers"? After all, integrity-centered behavior
is exhibited by those whose apparent naive approach
often brings condescending smirks from the "street
wise" manipulators of the rules and the system?
The use of performance-enhancing drugs reflects
these misplaced priorities.
Chemical abuse is a disease driven by greed and
sets in motion a moral example that must be repudiated
if an integrity-centered culture is to survive.
Everyone engaged in this form of cheating knows
that it is wrong. These are talented and adult participants.
They know better. These violators must stop. Right
now, in some sports circles, there seems to be little
or no self-regulation. However, with current probes
into violations and criminal investigations around
the next corner, there will emerge more governmental
restrictions that could stifle competition and the
very spirit essential to maintain a climate where
the achievement of excellence is still conducted
on a level playing field.
What serious athlete wants to live in a fish bowl
of suspicion? Did the winner cheat or play fair?
Did they win because of their talent or because
their chemist was better at mixing drugs?
What are we teaching the future generations when
we reduce life's noble activities, including sports
competition, to an equation that always rests upon
prestige, bragging rights and ill-gotten financial
rewards? Integrity-centered behavior stands for
more and so must the generation that is responsible
for leadership. Simply stated: play fair and insist
on fair play.
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on November 5,
"Just because others cheat on taxes, it doesn't
make it right"
I read that the number of Americans surveyed who
think tax cheating "here and there" is acceptable
is up 50% in the past four years. Is that possible?
Then I looked further into the matter and found
out the 50% increase is less scary when it is understood
that the difference in the past four years, since
1999, is simply up from 8% to 12%. Yes, this is
a negative trend, but some of the reaction seems
overblown. What is the big deal? Doesn't just about
everybody do it? Is cutting corners on taxes really
If you are upset with the sensational reporting
of statistics, you are not alone. You were smart
to check the numbers and determine the real story.
Yes, an increasing level of tax abuse is a concern.
Saying it is up 50% sounds a lot worse than clarifying
that the numbers are up 4%. Regardless of the reporting,
tax cheating seems to reflect a tone of increasing
mistrust and maybe even cynicism in our society.
Certainly the lack of headlines announcing convictions
related to corporate leadership scandals has done
little to re-energize those honest folks who must
work hard for their living. Even when substantial
fines have been levied and paid by the very institutions
that cost investors millions and billions of dollars,
many have done so without ever admitting guilt.
Loyal and solid citizens may have developed a belief
that accused "big shots" come to trial slowly and
then hire expensive and sophisticated lawyers who
help them to discover legal loopholes and escape
routes that still leave the less wealthy taxpayer
holding the bag. Might these "accountability-avoiding"
maneuvers by those with power and influence increase
anger and bitterness among frustrated observers
who are caught in the financial pinch of the recent
economic slowdown? Yes. Is this a legitimate reason
to cheat on taxes? No.
The situation does remind me of an incident, just
about the time some of these scandals were hitting
the press. While getting a haircut, early one morning,
a colleague of my barber walked by, and turning
to us, being friendly, asked how I was. Wanting
to bring some humor to the early hour, my comment
was simply that I was happy to be getting a haircut
and not be in jail. With a sheepish nod, followed
by a smile, I laughed. However, what happened next
was jarring. Her exact words, which still send a
chill up my spine, were: "Well, if you were a big-time
executive, you would never have to go to jail."
She said a lot in a few words. Whether accurate
or not, she captured the feelings of all too many
in our culture. Such perceptions do not restore
confidence and trust in leadership, in any way,
and will not generate commitment to the common good,
in business or for our society as a whole.
Integrity will not allow us to give up. As citizens
of this nation, we have a number of important responsibilities.
One of those duties is to contribute to the well-being
of the society by being productive and shouldering
the financial load for the liberties we enjoy. Freedom
is not free and neither are the roadways we utilize
to get to and from work. Police and fire services
for our families and loved ones also come at a price.
So too there are costs associated with protecting
our citizens from invaders, whether as warring armies
and navies or brutal terrorists who do not distinguish
in their murders between members of the military
or innocent civilians. Fresh water, clean air, safe
transportation, edible foods, plus a whole variety
of programs and services are provided to our citizens
(perfectly or imperfectly) because our society expects
nothing less. Each comes with a price. We are responsible
for paying for these services. Taxation is the system
our government has adopted to pay for the benefits
Is everyone paying their fair share? Others determine
the right answer in this area. What we do know is
that everyone is responsible to help sustain the
nation, the state, the municipality and the community
in which they live. Does everyone shoulder the load
appropriately? The answer is probably not. Integrity-centered
citizenship suggests that we make our opinions known,
work hard to elect those who share our values and
support the will of the majority. Cutting corners
is not simply or solely about taxes so much as it
is a reminder of the need for integrity-centered
citizenship, economic stewardship and social responsibility.
How we support the system (federal, state and local)
sends signals that will influence the attitudes
of our children and the grandchildren of our grandchildren.
They learn from our choices and our behaviors what
we have determined is important. Two fundamental
integrity questions to be asked regarding the legacy
we are leaving for present and future generations
1. What are we teaching by what we are repudiating?
2. What are we valuing by what we are tolerating?
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on December 3,
"Restoring trust can take
Seems everywhere there are integrity issues: politics,
business, education, organized religion and even
in the family structure itself. Where does one look
to restore integrity and trust? The mutual fund
scandal is over the top. Where does it end? What
can be done? Do you have any recommendations for
where to turn in these turbulent times?
First, I do not know what to tell you about mutual
funds. But, I do know where to turn in these turbulent
times. Yes. The right places to turn for answers
regarding restoring confidence and trust are to
the very same institutions you mention as sources
of problems. There is little doubt that most individuals
are doing a good job, in government service, free
enterprise, teaching, spiritual leadership and parenting.
Yet, there are those who take advantage of the system
and abuse their privileges. They must be rooted
out, wherever they bring harm and abuse. Despite
protests to the contrary, given human nature and
its seemingly insatiable appetite for the sensational,
we know that it is the dramatic reporting of bad
news that sells newspapers and attracts viewers
for television and listeners for radio.
If one listens to or reads only headline grabbing
reports, it is understandable that one's perspective
could become negative and even callous. An "everything
in the world is awful" attitude might gain some
serious mindshare. However, oversimplification is
not the answer. Although the media are a convenient
target to bash and blame, when they write and report
with shocking stories, still it is a large portion
of the population that cannot wait to gobble up
information about the problems and the calamities
However, it is our First Amendment institutions
(free press organizations), including their news
teams, that own the responsibility for monitoring
all of us – wherever we flourish, whether
effectively or destructively. We know that trust
has been broken and that confidence has been shattered
for millions of investors, customers, religious
believers, and the voting public. Fortunately, because
of our free press, we have fortunate to have learned
about many of these disturbing and sometimes illegal
activities. Some of those individuals and institutions
being dragged through the headlines may very well
be guilty of compromising our culture, our society
and even our value systems. How fortunate we are
to live in a democracy in which courageous reporters
accept the responsibility to blow the whistle on
behaviors that are inappropriate. Restoring trust
is a key.
Secretary of State, Colin Powell, in a recent editorial
(11-10-03) suggests that "trust – once broken
– is hard to restore, harder even than restarting
an economy." General Powell's comments refer to
Iraq and the multiple challenges its people must
address. He states: "We must remember that the nightmare
that Saddam Hussein inflicted on Iraq lasted longer
than Joseph Stalin's tyranny in the Soviet Union.
To expect the tragedy of Iraq's past to recede swiftly
is unrealistic. Wounds take time to heal, and even
when the physical scars disappear, often time psychological
ones remain." The insight and sensitivity of Secretary
Powell can be applied in other areas as well, perhaps
nowhere more dramatically than with the recent mutual
Piggy-backing on Mr. Powell's "trust-restoring"
comments, and what actions are most difficult to
execute, think about how the Boston-based Putnam
Investment fund responded to recent allegations.
Seems that two senior investment managers at Putnam
were charged with using improper trades to profit
personally from mutual funds they oversaw. Putnam
denied any wrongdoing but confirmed that four money
managers had been fired. This scandal has tarred
the reputation of mutual funds, traditionally viewed
as safe and conservative. Will the recent crack
down on mutual funds scare off some of the 90 million
people who have invested in them? When might their
confidence be restored?
William Donaldson, head of the Securities and Exchange
Commission, understands how fragile trust can be
when he addresses longer-term implications resulting
from the recent wrongdoings of the mutual fund industry.
Mr. Donaldson knows that until trust is restored
and abuses are stopped, that all too many innocent
investors will lack investment confidence. He promises
to overhaul the mutual fund industry, restraining
abusive trading, clarifying conflicts of interest
and demanding better disclosure of fees. One writer
described his criticism of Wall Street as a rebuke.
He mentioned in a speech that "the securities industry
has found itself stuck in a legal and ethical quagmire,
but I am confident that the industry will work together
to pull the industry out of the muck and live up
to a higher ethical standard." He went on to say
that "You can be sure that if you don't, those of
us in the government will." Mr. Donaldson knows
that some of those working in financial services
represent a fundamental betrayal of our nation's
investors and are symptomatic of a disease that
has afflicted far too many in the industry.
Over and over, we remind our Integrity Matters
readers: "It should be common knowledge that free
markets must regulate themselves [including those
working in mutual funds] or governments will." Donaldson's
speech comes in the midst of growing pressure from
both Capitol Hill and state regulators for the Securities
and Exchange Commission to take more aggressive
steps at combating corruption in the mutual funds
industry. Once again, the solution to the investment
scandals lies in the hands of those equipped and
committed to making the system better: solid, ethical,
upright and honest suppliers of investment advice;
the media who will monitor changes, and the oversight
committees and commissions which we fund through
taxes and associations charged with regulatory tasks.
One of my advisors is always ready with the same
counsel: "Be a little more patient, because the
system will right itself, even if it requires a
few strong reminders that it is supposed to right
itself." Whatever the institution, it will return
to some semblance of self-regulation or society
will rise up and direct it "rebalance" - because
that is how the world really operates.
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on November 12,
"Integrity in workplace never takes
day off, even if the boss calls in sick"
You write about owners and bosses and how the leaders
in various organizations need to clean up their
acts. But what do you think about employees who
don't pull their weight when the boss is absent?
What is the integrity when workers talk on the phone
in a retail store instead of greeting customers?
What about employees who come in late, leave early,
are not very nice to customers and fellow employees,
and still expect to be paid for a full day's work?
Isn't integrity a two-way street?
Integrity is a two-way street. Employers owe to
those with whom they work an opportunity to be productive,
successful, safe, healthy and proud. Owners and
operators of enterprises are responsible for creating
and supporting a working environment that is sustainable
for all stakeholders (investors, customers, suppliers,
employees, members of the community). Fly-by-night
enterprises, because they do not provide long-term
viability, seldom become good corporate citizens.
So, when employees find legitimate organizations
(whether for profit or not-for-profit) to serve,
then 100% commitment and follow-through ought to
be the expected response. Common sense teaches that
when the enterprise meets or exceeds its responsibilities
for integrity to its stakeholders, then those who
join the organization have obligations as well.
Perhaps this short list of integrity-centered responsibilities
will serve our readers well, whether as employees
1. Honesty means more than simply telling the truth.
It means being on time, alert and ready to work,
every time. Honest employees never take from the
workplace materials and supplies intended for the
execution of organizational duties (paper, pencils,
paper goods, food, etc). Honesty requires being
willing to give appropriate attention to customers
and clients, support to colleagues and gracious
responses to suppliers. When non-essential personal
phone calls become abusive, to the extent that they
draw attention away from customer and client services,
employee behavior comes into question. Wasting an
organization's money while spending time with idle
chit-chat, playing video-games, visiting questionable
websites during work hours is not being honest.
2. Competency describes a level of performance that
satisfies customer expectations and helps to sustain
the quality standards of the organization. Competence
applies to more than the mechanical functions of
any given job; it also refers to the social skills
required for effective interactions with all who
are impacted by the work and worker. Competent employees
pursue excellence and accept the challenge for continuous
improvement. Competent employees improve their own
productivity and assist with the efficiency and
effectiveness of those with whom they work.
3. Loyalty is reflected in how employees refer to
and treat their working environment. Those who understand
the importance of workplace commitment often do
far better than the complainers, whose lives are
filled with stories of bitterness and frustration.
Work is not play. Work, a combination of perspiration,
dedication, sacrifice and focus, is how many must
spend a significant portion of their lives to pay
their bills and build some level of economic security
for the future. Those who are the wisest have learned
and are able to live the wisdom articulated by Mr.
Elbert Hubbard, nearly 100 years ago:
"If you work for other people, in heaven's name
work for them, speak well of them and stand by the
institution they represent. Remember, an ounce of
loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness. If you must
growl, condemn, and eternally find fault, then resign
your position and when you are on the outside, blast
them to your heart's content. However, as long as
you are a part of the institution, do not condemn
it. For, if you do, the first high wind that comes
along will blow you away, and probably you will
never know why."
Integrity is a two-way street. Employers owe the
employee and the employee owes the employer. When
they meet and exceed one another's needs, productivity
rises, customers are happier and profits allow for
better rewards for all who are involved. Not only
does integrity matter, it makes for an environment
that generates economic success.
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on January 7,
"When it comes right down
to it, it's greed"
Does getting rich make people lose their integrity?
The stories about very rich people pushing for even
more, in questionable ways like defrauding even
small investors, upset me. How much is enough? What
happens to integrity and honesty when money comes
into the picture?
Money and power have corrupted lots of people. History
books and literature are filled with stories about
the downfall of the haughty and mighty. Some of
the stories are tragic. Other stories about failures
are simply pathetic. For some, at least so it seems,
wealth and recognition blind their social sensitivity.
Simple, hard working, single-minded individuals,
who have been helped along the pathway to incredible
success, turn a deaf ear to those they once called
friends and colleagues. So, what causes this behavior?
Either they never learned to appreciate their success
and stop clawing their way to the top, or they have
failed to recognize how inappropriate it is for
them to continue in their self-serving ways, once
they have really made it. What we do understand
is that this type of behavior is destructive.
Our society seems to enjoy the worship of materialism.
Once upon a time, when citizens were not quite so
wealthy, so surrounded by conveniences and less
able to push buttons that "do the work" –
there may have been more energy focused on the quality
of social interactions. Perhaps when a trip of 100
miles required a week of travel folks had more time
to appreciate their world and the people in it.
Now, we are able to fly around the earth in less
than a week and still, we seem to have less time
to reflect and relate. Maybe this speed of living
is partially to blame for our rudeness and lack
Although we will not change some of the dirty rotten
scoundrels who will forever take advantage of others,
there is a chance that some who might be at risk
of false pride, hubris, and ruthless insensitivity
will take heed of another of the lessons taught
by Mahatma Ghandi. It was Ghandi, the "great soul,"
who led the drive for Indian independence and was
assassinated in 1948. He gave up his family legacy
of a life of guaranteed luxury, including the best
that education could offer, to provide guidance
for his own people and his nation's freedom. From
Ghandi's experiences, we can learn this:
There are seven aspects of living that must be
avoided. By choosing more constructive priorities
and behaviors, each individual can avoid what Ghandi
referred to as the seven deadly social sins:
1. wealth without work
2. pleasure with conscience
3. knowledge without character
4. commerce without morality
5. science without humanity
6. worship without sacrifice
7. politics without principle
Many individuals in every community are not blinded
by wealth and power. They support charities, help
those who are unable to help themselves. Good people
are all around us, reaching out, remembering appreciatively
those who helped them and eager to leave a legacy
of social improvement. Occasionally, when someone
honks a horn prematurely, steps in front of me when
approaching an elevator or interrupts before I am
able to complete a point, I offer a silent thought
of appreciation that they are neither my spouse,
best friend nor business partner. Someone else gets
to deal with them all the time and I have the pleasure
of enjoying others who are working with me to avoid
Ghandi's seven social sins. Integrity matters, all
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on November 26,
"Future depends on education
of young people"
What are the educators thinking about? High school
exit exams are now being changed again to be made
easier. This makes no sense to me. As the global
economy heats up and competition increases, how
can we expect the next generation of young Californians
to be competitive, let alone succeed, if the educational
system here in our state does not insist on ever
increasing levels of academic excellence? Are those
who soften these important performance standards
simply weak-kneed educators who are unwilling or
unable to maintain top-quality education? Where
is their integrity if they are bowing to pressure
from lazy students and irresponsible parents that
the standards are too high?
Educational testing is a sophisticated discipline
that combines what is being learned with how it
is communicated by the student in a formal testing
situation. Recent reports overseen by the independent
National Assessment Governing Board and the U.S.
Department of Education indicate California students
are improving on certain national tests. Even though
California's performance is not yet stellar, State
Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell
said he "continues to believe our state standard
tests are a more accurate reflection of our children's
progress in the classroom." Superintendent O'Connell
mentions California has unique challenges, including
the largest percentage of non-native English-speakers
in any state.
Even so, the world economy will not slow down or
change its demands to accommodate the educational
challenges faced by Californians. The facts are
- Competitive advantage is almost always on the
side of those who are prepared intellectually
and practically to increase productivity. When
those in authority do not direct younger people
to both understand and commit to the essential
sacrifices necessary to remain competitive, then
they have lost the moral authority to lead. The
future is in jeopardy for those who are not prepared.
- Language and math knowledge combined with social
and communications skills, are the foundations
for effectiveness in the technology-driven world
of the 21st Century. Our educators and parents
carry an important burden: the responsibility
to motivate and sustain serious interest in life-long
learning, which begins formally with those earliest
encounters in the classroom.
- Strong family and community support systems
must encourage learning. Regardless of history,
culture or economic position, all who are responsibly
guiding the next generation become (by choice
or chance) the pillars upon which the next generation
rests as it makes its way toward strong and productive
- Role models, in all walks of life, for better
or worse, send signals to the next generation
about what is important, and how time, energy
and money should be invested. When adults are
perceived to focus way too much on greed, easy
money, superficial activities and violent entertainment
– what are younger people most likely to
value? Education and learning are often most effective
with parents and adult encouragement, which suggests
that the most productive homework environment
is probably the one that offers quiet and reassurance
– with a caring and concerned adult nearby.
- Educators are willing to push for ever-higher
standards. Once the schools know that they have
been endorsed by the student's support system
(parents and family), then the confidence of the
teachers grow and they are aware that the demands
for study and preparation will be met –
on the home front – with acceptance, encouragement
The rest of the world does not much concern itself
with our social and cultural assimilation challenges.
At the end of the day, everyone is measured on productivity.
If we are casual in our approach to preparation
for the future, even the present, we will be left
behind: economically, culturally and politically.
Again, if we do not regulate and in this instance,
demand, the best of what we are capable, then the
world as we have known it will change and leave
us behind. And, a good portion of the challenge
lies with our commitment to help the next generation
learn and prepare itself for the future.
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on December 10,
"Integrity in amateur sports
goes beyond winning"
The University of Southern California (USC) has
been shafted...again! The nation's coaches and sportswriters,
who should know about these things, ranked the USC
Trojans as uncontested national football champion
at season's end, but still, this misguided Bowl
Championship Series (BCS) computer thing has screwed
it all up. In fact, this new BCS, that was supposed
to end season-end controversy, might not even yield
a clear-cut national champion! This is because USC
won't even be in the so-called title game on January
4--yet, if USC defeats Michigan on January 1, they
are almost certainly the best team. Oklahoma University
(OU) (not ranked # 1) and Louisiana State University
((LSU) (also not ranked # 1 ) will now compete for
the title of "BCS champion" which was supposed to
guarantee a number one ranking--are they kidding?
How does this relate in any way to integrity? There
are dollars, scholarships, pro-football draft positions
as well as coaches' jobs at stake here. Computers
don't have judgment--how can something this important
be compromised by bureaucrats and computer match-ups?
A disgruntled USC fan
Personally, one of the pleasures for me over the
holidays surrounding the end of one year and the
beginning of the next is the relaxing times of watching
and attending sports events. How great that the
bowl games coincide with time to slow down for those
of us who are the fans.
The BCS process itself appears to be flawed. Beyond
that, you might want to give some thought to your
own answers to a few questions fundamental to your
- What is the primary purpose of education, specifically
higher education? Within that, what is the role
of the sports program in the first place? Was
it to teach the importance of physical health,
honest competition, teamwork, sportsmanship and
leadership? How, then, does the focus and frenzy
devoted to the crowning of a national champion
strengthen the capacity our nation's younger people
to function effectively in an increasingly complex
and competitive marketplace?
- How much time should young and gifted student
athletes, amateurs of about 18-22 years of age,
be expected to devote to sports travel, practice
and performance activities? And how does that
compare with the time that should be devoted to
studying for the academic degree they have committed
to earn (which most of them will need to earn
a living for the rest of their lives)?
- How appropriate is it for these young people
to be required to keep this intense pressure on
themselves beyond the regular sports season; and
for these young people to receive performance
pressure from parents, friends and coaches from
middle school years onward? Remember, only a tiny
fraction of those participating will have sufficient
ability and desire to succeed as a professional
in their sport, and even those will average less
than five years as professionals. A retired university
basketball coach, Mr. John Thompson, formerly
of Georgetown University, once reminded young
people that there was a higher probability that
an African-American growing up in Harlem would
become a brain surgeon than "make it" as a starter
in the National Basketball Association. Coach
Thompson encouraged young people to not ignore
learning in the classroom.
- Might this national frenzy with "crowning
the champion" simply extend pressure on them
that might contribute negatively to their life-long
effectiveness, especially if means sacrificing
life-long learning for the sake of short-term
glory? Many of these amateurs have accepted financial
assistance and the management of their personal
affairs. As a result, this competitive process
may cause them to feel that they have little control
over the wishes and demands of others: fans, alumni,
sports agents and fund raisers.
- Sports programs, at many institutions of higher
learning, are big business. How much time and
pressure should student athletes need to accept
in order to satisfy the desires of those who are
too often using them for financial gain?
Some of the notable universities publicize and
otherwise celebrate their Olympic medalists and
their athletic heroes and Heisman Trophy winners,
in an effort to attract other student-athletes of
world-class capability. Even though millions and
millions of dollars may be attracted to these sports
programs and their respective schools of higher
learning, these "amateur contracts/awards"
may or may not have very much to do with the classroom
education. Even so, these young athletes are required
to perform, often in front of large audiences, for
their respective institutions, essentially for free
(minus their "educational costs"). Their
competitive success in sports brings both fame and
dollars, first to the schools and eventually to
a small percentage of the athletes themselves as
they enter professional sports.
However, might it be appropriate to think of this
time of year a little less about crowning and more
about celebrating? Integrity in amateur sport is
not as much about
winning as about education, nurture and relationships.
There needs to be a more thoughtful assessment of
what we are leaving as our legacy of values for
and with these athletes. Amateur sports need to
be guided by adults who understand what it means
to maintain a sense of proportion. Amateur sports,
if not properly guided, will continue to provide
a forum for angry and frustrated parents (and fans)
who scream at coaches, fight one another in front
of their children, and set unrealistic expectations.
We are better than that.