With the kickoff of the pro football regular season upon us, fans are watching low-lights of players fumbling and bumbling their way to football notoriety. We can count on TV commentators Mike Ditka and Chris Carter to once again shout “C’mon, man!” when the players mess up.
I’m referring to the ESPN segment where these analysts bellow “C’mon, man!” after showing clips of players making particularly boneheaded plays. Unfortunately there’s no shortage of such graceless stumbles in the business world, too, that leave onlookers scratching their heads.
So, with readers clamoring for more, here’s another installment of “C’mon, man!” the business world version.
The Great Train Robber
A Londoner using a commuter train was accused of not purchasing a ticket. He reportedly boarded at Stonegate, a station without turnstiles, and upon arriving at Cannon Street failed to scan a ticket to exit. He instead used what’s referred to as an “Oyster” travel card, paying £7.20, the maximum fare for a trip within London, but far less than the required £21.50 fare from Stonegate. A fare officer noticed, and upon investigation found that not only had this guy not paid the proper fare on this trip, he had been underpaying fares for years.
Now, most such fare beaters are permitted to settle infractions out of court, and this rider indeed proposed and was accorded such a settlement. Although he denied having dodged fares for years, he agreed to pay £43,000, which turned out to be the largest such case in the train company’s history.
OK, people occasionally err and pay their debt. So why is this case relevant to this column? Well, the offender—Jonathan Burrows—happened to be a managing director of Blackrock Asset Investor Services in London. And after media reports on the “Great Train Robber” surfaced, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority noticed and commenced its own investigation. The result: This managing director, who reportedly had had a spotless record in his 20-year career, now is barred from the financial industry for life! A Blackrock spokeswoman said Burrows has left the firm.
Burrows is reported to have said, “I have always recognized that what I did was foolish. I have apologized to all concerned and reiterate that apology publicly today.” Well, apology notwithstanding, the guy is paying with his career for what he says is a “small number of occasions that I failed to pay.”
Burrows certainly was up there in compensation, evidenced in part by his having sought planning permission for a house near Stonegate village, with pond and tennis courts and a price tag of £2.73 million. As such, one is tempted to feel sorry for the guy, having ruined his career and possibly life-style for a mere pittance. That being said, we also need to wonder how someone could have done something so utterly idiotic. And for that we give Burrows a hearty, “C’mon man!”
Allowing Guns on Air Flights
Business travelers know all too well the airport security procedures we must endure to board a flight. It’s a little better now with the TSA Pre-Check program, avoiding the need to take off shoes and pull laptops out of briefcases. But it nonetheless remains a hassle, though with the ongoing threat of terrorism we understand and deal with it.
Well, it seems the security system has long had a major hole in it, allowing caches of guns to be brought right onto scheduled passenger flights with TSA completely in the dark! You may have seen the media reports outlining how a man recently boarded a Delta Airlines flight in Atlanta and flew to New York’s JFK Airport with no less than 16 guns (along with ammunition) in his backpack. But that wasn’t the first time. It turns out he reportedly smuggled 153 firearms, including an AK-47 assault rifle, on 17 Delta flights from Atlanta to New York.
How was this possible? Evidently very easily. A Delta baggage handler at the Atlanta airport who had ready access to secure areas brought the guns into the terminal. Then, in a men’s bathroom located past the TSA checkpoint, the baggage handler transferred the guns to the carrier, who simply boarded the planes with his backpack filled with the arms and ammo.
It turns out that on the flight outlined above, the carrier was arrested in New York City for gun smuggling. But was this because of security protocols in TSA Atlanta? Evidently not. Rather, as outlined by the Brooklyn district attorney, New York detectives had been looking into gun smuggling—initially believing the guns bought in Georgia were transported by car to NYC. Only after a months-long investigation which included reviewing hours of airport surveillance video did they realize the guns must be arriving by plane.
An Atlanta airport spokesman later said airport employees were subject to criminal background checks and “continuous vetting and random inspections,” and “in light of these recent events, we are reviewing our security plan and will make the appropriate changes to prevent future incidents of this nature.”
Those words may placate some, but we can only wonder how effective the continuous vetting and random inspections were. I believe the answer is obvious. And it was sheer luck that the guns were brought on board to speed transport for resale, rather than to enable a devastating mid-air attack.
So, for the TSA and airport security protocols, as well as the spokesperson who put a PR spin on the outrageous situation, I give you an incredulous “C’mon man!”
Madoff Auditor Goes Free
David Friehling, the auditor for the Bernie Madoff securities firm, recently was sentenced to one-year home detention and another year of supervised release. In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Court judge Laura Taylor Swain pointed to Friehling’s extensive cooperation with prosecutors, including testifying for several days during a trial resulting in the convictions of several former Madoff employees.
Now, I tend to believe the legal system should demonstrate compassion in appropriate circumstances. This, however, is not one of them. Friehling is said to have “abdicated his responsibilities,” basically rubber-stamping the Madoff financial statements without having done any auditing at all! We all know the Ponzi scheme cost investors more than $17 billion, which loss is compounded by the investors never seeing any of the many tens of billions dollars more that they thought was safely residing in their investment accounts. I know several individuals whose lives were severely damaged by this fraud (you may as well), and the pain they suffer is ongoing.
I’m not one to blame auditors for making mistakes, or having lapses in judgment. Auditing is not an exact science and often deals with complex situations and circumstances. But signing off on financial statements while doing no audit work, or virtually none, is different.
Friehling could have been sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. OK, he and family members lost money, and his son committed suicide. I do feel for any parent who lost a child. In sentencing, Judge Swain noted that Friehling had shown considerable remorse for his actions (or let me say lack of action), and had been active in volunteer work. Remorse and volunteering, however, along with testifying for several days, should not allow this guy to avoid prison altogether. A 100-year sentence would have been overkill, but nothing?
So, for Judge Swain, you’re sadly entitled to a soul-searching “C’mon man,” (or rather “C’mon woman”).
NFL Player Plays With Fireworks
With the theme of this column being football oriented, I feel compelled to provide one more “C’mon man,” this to Jason Pierre-Paul, the standout defensive lineman for the New York Giants. “JPP” decided to celebrate the July 4 holiday by setting off a slew of fireworks. Did he engage a professional to do this, or simply attend any of the many fireworks shows? No. He put his valuable hands directly on the explosives.
The result: he lost his right index finger and now has pins in his thumb. For a defensive lineman, who on virtually every play is engaged in violent hand-to-hand combat, the loss is significant. Another result is that a reported four-year, $60 million contract offer put forth by the Giants has been rescinded. The NY Giants and their fans hope JPP will be at (or close to) his former strength and ability, but there’s no guarantee.
JPP is not the first NFL player to do something stupid, and certainly won’t be the last. In any event, we can expect Mike Ditka and Chris Carter to give JPP a loud “C’mon man!” So do I.