The Paradox Of Unvaccinated Healthcare Workers

A surprising number of healthcare workers, including physicians and registered nurses, refuse COVID vaccinations. Reports cite several factors, but the principal issue may come down to trust. What does this say about healthcare generally, and what does it mean for mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers? Weighing Costs And Benefits Like many people, I got vaccinated…

Read More

The Supreme Court, NCAA, And Juneteenth

Two days after Juneteenth, the Supreme Court rejected NCAA limits on athletes’ education-related benefits. The ruling was justice. The timing was poetic justice. Here’s why. Juneteenth Juneteenth commemorates emancipation of African-American slaves in the United States. “Juneteenth” refers to June 19, 1865. On that day, the Union military governor of Texas, Maj. General Gordon Granger,…

Read More

When Words Kill: Lessons From The Champlain Tower Collapse

Search-and-rescue teams pick through the rubble of a partially collapsed 12-story condominium near Miami, Florida. The death toll may top 160. If the blame rests with words, how safe are the rest of us? Words, Words, Words While search-and-rescue teams dig, media and investigators have begun unearthing causes of the collapse. Current Guestimate Of Causes…

Read More

Cancel Culture, Chinese Style

The Chinese government canceled retailer H&M from the national Internet for airing concerns over alleged forced labor in Xinjiang Region. Will pending EU and US ESG regulations trigger a trade war? A Juggernaut Gains Momentum Previous columns described the environmental, social, and governance (“ESG”) movement and examined conflicting claims over whether ESG investing yields higher returns…

Read More

Forget “The Big Shift.” Here Comes “The Big Shakeout”

Many businesses — meaning many bosses — want employees back in the office. Millennials make up the largest cohort in the workforce. What if they won’t go? Millennials: Numerous, Demanding, and Distrustful 40%-75% Of the Workforce Millennials comprise persons born roughly from 1981-1995. (Some date ranges start as early as 1978; some go as late…

Read More

Liar’s Chess: Exposing India’s Slumdog Billionaire

Nikhil Kamath, India’s youngest billionaire, cheated in a charity chess match. What else about his life story and wealth is built on lies? Slumdog Billionaire Self-made superstar In 2000, a 14-year-old Nikhil Kamath, the son of a bank manager and music teacher, dropped out of school and got a job. In 2010, he co-founded Zerodha,…

Read More

Oprah Vs Queen Elizabeth II

The BBC forged documents and lied to obtain a 1995 interview with Princess Diana, then covered it up. But that scandal is just the undercard. Get ready for Oprah v. The Queen. Fake News, British Style A serious breach of BBC Guidelines on straight dealing British judge Lord Dyson issued a damning reporting of BBC…

Read More

Exxon And ESG Investing: Who’s Greenwashing Whom? 4 Key Questions

By 2025, ESG investing may account for $53 trillion, or 1/3, of assets under management. Here are four key questions for combatting the greenwashing this much money will inevitably encourage. 1 – Does ESG Investing Generate Higher Intrinsic Returns To Investors? ESG investing values environmental, social, and governance factors in addition to pure financial returns.…

Read More

Colonial Pipeline: What Payment For Ransomware Piracy?

A pipeline CEO paid $4.4 million in bitcoin to ransomware pirates. How should such piracy be dealt with? And by whom? Half the U.S. Held Hostage The Colonial Pipeline provides about 45% of the U.S. East Coast’s fuel. Soon after ransomware pirates breached and froze pipeline operations on May 7, gas pumps throughout the Eastern…

Read More

Wokeness At Work II. Basecamp: Implosion, Or Addition By Subtraction?

Approximately 1/3 of Basecamp’s staff (18 of 57 people) have resigned or given notice after management banned social and political discussions on company email accounts. Has Basecamp “imploded,” or do the departures represent “addition by subtraction”? Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right My previous column discussed the rationale and details of Basecamp’s new policy. More…

Read More

Red-Flagging SPACs: The Lawsuit Against Multiplan Corp.

Shareholders of the Special Purpose Acquisition Company (“SPAC”) Multiplan Corp. are suing deal sponsors, who made millions while regular investors lost big. Should we pity these investors, or chalk up another case of fools and their money being soon parted? Experience Is The Best Teacher — A Fool Can Learn No Other Way The plaintiffs’…

Read More

Voting Laws: When Should CEOs Lead Their Companies Into Crossfires?

Dozens of CEOs and other senior leaders conferred via Zoom this past weekend to explore responses to draft voting-law reforms in various U.S. states. The Zoom call followed Major League Baseball’s pulling its 2021 All Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia’s recent voting law. Voting access and voting integrity lie at the heart…

Read More

Did Overhyped Marketing Kill Two Tesla Passengers? “Autopilot” That Isn’t

Picking through the charred remains of a Tesla crash last weekend, first responders found two bodies in passenger seats, but none at the wheel. It’s possible they incorrectly used Tesla’s much-touted “Autopilot” feature. If so, did they die from their own folly, or from overhyped marketing? Electric Cars Are Not Carbon Neutral When They Burn…

Read More

Voting Laws: When Should CEOs Lead Their Companies Into Crossfires?

Dozens of CEOs and other senior leaders conferred via Zoom this past weekend to explore responses to draft voting-law reforms in various U.S. states. The Zoom call followed Major League Baseball’s pulling its 2021 All Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia’s recent voting law. Voting access and voting integrity lie at the heart…

Read More

What Do ‘Equity’ And Frank’s Red Hot Sauce Have In Common?

A just society prizes equity. Seeking it — achieving it — require careful thought and effort. Unfortunately, that does not always happen. How can we prevent a concept as important as “equity” from devolving into a catchphrase? “I Put That S**t On Everything” One measure of a catchphrase is its memorability. Here, Frank’s Red Hot…

Read More

Better Deal Making: Turning Art & Theory Into New Best Practices

High-level deal making is an art. Now, some top entrepreneurs are partnering with a Nobel-winning contract theorist and other academics to combine art and theory into new best practices. How can we turn such innovation into advantage? In Deal Making, The Contract Comes Last And Least Deal making is too important to be left to…

Read More

When Does A Thumb On The Scales Of Justice Do Justice?

US and UK prosecutors promise leniency for errant companies that have tried hard to comply and cooperated with investigators. When does a thumb on the scales do justice? Rethinking Collective Punishment for Individual Wrongdoing Regulators and prosecutors in the U.S. and U.K. face a quandary. Does justice require harsh penalties against a company (and its…

Read More

Shareholder Democracy: McKinsey Partners Oust CEO Kevin Sneader

In a process as secretive as a papal conclave, involving only slightly less mystique, McKinsey’s senior partners refused Kevin Sneader a second term as CEO. Shareholder democracy has spoken. But what did it say? A Rare “One And Done” McKinsey & Company operates as unified global partnership. The firm’s approximately 650 senior partners elect the…

Read More

Will Artificial Intelligence Produce Synthetic Sociopaths?

Some day soon, computers may convincingly mimic human empathy. Will this lead to ethical artificial intelligence, or synthetic sociopathy? A Turing Test for Ethical Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) Technologists and ethicists have started to explore the form and meaning of a Turing Test for Ethical AI. The Original Imitation Game — Can Machines Think? 20th century…

Read More

McKinsey’s $573 Million Absolution: Value For Money. But For Whom?

McKinsey & Company, the world’s premier consulting firm, will pay nearly $600 million to settle claims by U.S. states relating to McKinsey’s work for opioid manufacturers and distributors. This seems like a lot. It may represent value for money. But for whom? McKinsey’s Seizes First-Mover Advantage First Nationwide Settlement McKinsey’s settlement comprises 47 states, four…

Read More

Riding The ESG Juggernaut: Whose Business Is It, Anyway?

The new Administration’s commitment to Environmental, Social, and Governance (”ESG”) issues begs the question of a business’s end goals. We deserve an open and honest debate. Will we get one? Contending Theories of Corporate Purpose What should be a business’s end goal? Over the last 50 years, two competing approaches have duked it out. Dualism:…

Read More

Parler: The Business Ethics Of Framing And De-Platforming

Parler

De-platformed within a 24-hour span by Amazon, Apple, and Google, social-media service Parler tries to rise from the dead. What’s the direct and collateral damage of success or failure? Framing In setting norms, how an issue is framed goes a long way towards deciding it. Whoever wins the framing battle often wins the policy war.…

Read More

Boeing’s $2.5 Billion Near Miss: A Faulty-To-The-Max Update

It’s been said that “you get justice in the next world, in this world you get law.” Does Boeing’s $2.5 billion settlement over 737 MAX crashes bear this maxim out? Boeing Cops A Plea — And Throws Two Ex-employees To The Wolves Last week’s column described the design and training decisions that caused two, Boeing…

Read More

Faulty To The Max: Boeing And The FAA’s 737 Debacle

Upgraded Boeing 737 MAX commercial jets have returned to the skies. The blame game, however, goes on. Can we find a principle that cuts through the spin? Accidents Happen; Catastrophes Take Effort A total of 346 people died in two separate crashes of Boeing 737 MAX jets in October 2018 and March 2019. The crashes…

Read More

What Are Apple And Facebook Fighting Over? — You

Facebook CEO Jeff Zuckerberg & Apple CEO Tim Cook

In a free market, when companies fight over customers, it’s the customers who should win. Will that happen here? The Apple-Facebook fight over user privacy heated up last week, with Facebook taking out full-page advertisements in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. The ads proclaimed that Facebook was “standing up to Apple for…

Read More

The COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout: Who’s Getting Stuck?

Vaccination

By a 13-1 vote, an “independent expert” panel of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (”CDC”) just recommended who should enjoy priority for rollout of COVID vaccines. What would we do without experts? Two drug companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have requested and expect emergency approval of their COVID-19 vaccines. These companies estimate having…

Read More

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh (1973-2020): The Power Of “Why”

Retired Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh

Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh recently died in a house fire. He was 46. Hsieh was a man of many talents, ideas, and successes. The theme of his life was happiness: his employees’, his customers’, and his own. Here’s what we can learn from his example. A Dreamer Who Delivered The child of immigrants, Hsieh’s…

Read More

Everything Ethics Podcast: Ethical Cultures

Many thanks to J. Kevin Foster, host of Everything Ethics, for a great conversation about building ethical business cultures. Here is a link to the Part I of our discussion. After Kevin publishes the full video, I will post part II. #therightwaytowin

Read More

Katzenberg Cancels Quibi — Let The Spin Begin!

Media billionaire Jeffrey Katzenberg recently pulled the plug on Quibi, his own start-up. As with any other box-office bomb, the post-mortem blame game may prove more creative, entertaining — and instructive — than the feature itself. Katzenberg founded Quibi with former eBay CEO Meg Witman. They raised $1.75 billion in start-up capital. This C-suite power…

Read More

Wells Fargo — The Grift That Keeps on Giving

Former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf just paid $2.5 million in civil fines. Is the bank’s fake-account scandal finally over? Not for shareholders. The Fake Account Scandal People may remember the nationally televised @ss whuppin’ Senator Elizabeth Warren delivered to then Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf. On Stumpf’s watch, 5,300 Wells Fargo employees opened as…

Read More

A Kodak Moment Memorable for the Wrong Reasons

Five ex-Kodak executives collected millions of dollars selling stock options they didn’t own. Then the story gets worse. (Under)statement from Mr. Know-It-All In a press (under)statement, Kodak Finance Chief David Bullwinkle (yes, Bullwinkle) said that the company had discovered deficiencies in its controls that had failed to prevent the unauthorized issuance of the company’s stock.…

Read More

Ethical Contracting by Design

Ethical contracting doesn’t just happen. You have to think through each side’s business goals and vision for the relationship, as well as contractual incentives and processes to keep the parties working together. Many thanks to Leadership Talk Series Host Manish Pathak for a great conversation! For those interested in a battle-tested approach to deal-making and…

Read More

The Rebirth of Purdue Pharma: Gandalf or Saruman?

Purdue Pharma has given up the ghost. The company faced $2.2 trillion in state and consumer claims, as well as $18 billion in sanctions from the federal government. The company will be reborn, but as what? Balrogs v Trial Lawyers Yes, Middle Earth has its wizard-killing Balrogs. But what creatures, for bloodthirsty, flesh-ripping rage, can…

Read More

The Mystery of the Compliance Hotline

COVID shifts compliance-hotline calls in weird ways. Can you solve the mystery? Yesterday, I spoke with the Director, Ethics & Compliance of a major U.S. manufacturer. She told me that calls to her company’s compliance hotline have not lessened, but the wrongdoing has shifted from fraud and harassment to COVID protocol violations. At the same…

Read More

Trashing Trump — Did Expensify’s CEO Do Right?

For managers, ethical behavior depends not just upon the decision itself, but the processes and the purposes behind the decision. Taking a Stand in Expensify’s Name Using company letterhead, Expensify’s CEO, David Barrett, sent 10 million users a sharply worded email encouraging them to vote for a particular Presidential candidate, and against another. Did Barrett…

Read More

Goldman’s Fiddler-Crab Clawback

Resembling fiddler crabs, senior Goldman executives seem to take with the giant claw, and to give back with the tiny one. A previous post described Goldman Sachs getting hit with over $5 billion in fines and disgorgement sanctions. These penalties relate to two senior Goldman bankers’ participation in a multi-billion-dollar bribery and embezzlement scheme. Taking…

Read More

The New 5G: Goldman, Greed, Graft, Gupta & Grift

Goldman Goldman Sachs admitted wrongdoing in a bribery scandal and will pay over $5 billion. When senior executives break bad, the key question isn’t “Why?” but “When?” To see how your own company compares, take the the “Bagel Test”! Greed & Graft Goldman Sachs recently signed a deferred prosecution agreement with the federal government. The…

Read More

The Dirty Secret of Corporate Governance

There’s a dirty secret at the heart of corporate governance. Governance rules don’t create value. They only prevent it’s destruction. A business with perfect governance that doesn’t make money is worthless. So, how should we keep our eyes on the ball? What Makes a Business Valuable? A business is worth the returns it makes for…

Read More

A Mob Bookie Schools JP Morgan on Fraud

The federal government just fined JP Morgan Chase $920 million. And that’s because the feds decided to go easy on the bank. Now, as part of the settlement, JP Morgan must adopt the anti-fraud methods of a Mob bookie and casino boss. “Spoofing” Markets through Bogus Orders JP Morgan traders unlawfully manipulated the market through…

Read More

Citigroup’s $400 Million Fine: The Buck Stops Nowhere

Citigroup admitted to risk-management shortcomings and some compliance lapses. Federal regulators not only fined Citigroup $400 million but claimed authority over key staffing. Now the buck stops nowhere. This is bad for Citigroup. And for the rest of us. Bad Citigroup! Bad! Citigroup Board of Directors just signed off on consent orders. They admit “significant…

Read More

Wolf of Wall Street; Sheepdog of Main Street

Sheepdogs are boring losers. Wolves are cool winners. End of story? Not in real life. Hollywood likes to portray business winners as predators. They spot the prey, make the kill, then party hard, pilot yachts, and sleep with Margot Robbie. For a time, perhaps. In real life, such predators often end up sleeping with a…

Read More

Olin B-School Blog Features “The Right Way to Win”

If my book wins a Pulitzer, I might receive a coveted WashU yellow visitor parking pass. (The red parking pass requires a Nobel.) From the blog: “An ocean liner hits an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Ten people scramble into one lifeboat, and wind and waves drive the lifeboat far from other boats. The passengers…

Read More

Wells Fargo CEO’s Gaff: Diversity’s Ends and Means

Wells Fargo’s CEO Charles Scharf recently apologized for attributing lack of diversity at his bank to “a very limited pool of black talent to recruit from.” Comments like Scharf’s trigger rapid pile-ons and pushback. Many critics addressed his remarks directly. Coming from a different angle, I would ask whether, had Wells Fargo’s sale numbers disappointed,…

Read More

Is common sense ever “New and Improved”?

A spate of blogs and press releases tout upgraded or “new and improved” capitalism, corporate governance, and executive-pay models. Before common sense can prevail, we have to use it. More power to people who want to make things run better. But, how much of what is proposed is really an upgrade, or new and improved?…

Read More

Stopping a Plane with Ethics Aikido

Ethics Aikido is the art pushing back without pushback. It doesn’t take a black belt. Just one simple question. I used it once to stop a potentially scandalous $500,000 plane flight. We’ve all found ourselves in ethical jams. Our bosses or colleagues want to do something we think is wrong, or plays too close to…

Read More

Podcast: Driving the ROI of Ethics and Success

People don’t want to survive: they want to thrive. To show how, my podcast with World Commerce and Contracting explores The Right Way to Win: The ROI of Ethics and Success. The podcast covers: How ethics and business success reinforce each other How leaders send the message from the top How enforcement trends target middle…

Read More

A lunch-break meditation on friendship

What makes us friends with somebody? Marriage v Friendship “Marriage” is an easier thing to understand. It is a civil contract and/or religious covenant with a defined beginning, defined rights and duties, and defined end. When entering or staying in a marriage, motives and conduct don’t matter. A person who got married for money or…

Read More

Get Out of Jail Free (sort of) — Heeding the DOJ Guidance.

A recent Corporate Compliance article featured my Best Practices for leveraging U.S. Department of Justice Guidance on Evaluating Corporate Compliance and Ethics Programs (DOJ Guidance). The DOJ will apply the Guidance in deciding whether to prosecute or fine you or your business. Wise people will take note. And use the Guidance to their advantage. Don’t…

Read More

The Art of the Deal (Fee): Trump and TikTok

President Trump recently called for the U.S. Government to get a slice of proceeds from the forced sale of TikTok to a U.S. buyer. There may be legitimate national-security reasons for Trump to force TikTok’s Chinese owners to sell the personal-data-rich social media application to U.S. investors. And arguably, the forced sale will take place…

Read More

How Steve Jobs made Apple a $2 trillion company. Lessons for your company and career

Breakthrough inventions happen when we solve technical contradictions without performance trade-offs. For example, you need to cut a material fast but without building up heat. The solution: cut with a jet of cold, high-pressure water. Steve Jobs’s contradiction was running the world’s largest start-up: how to meld public-company size and scale with start-up innovation and…

Read More