April 16, 2015

CNBC, NBC and Lifetime

Unlike some of the fine men with whom I served time, I am not a conspiracy theorist. I do not believe the Department of Justice wakes with the goal of throwing every citizen in prison. Now, for clarity, I do believe we lock up too many people. I believe many criminal cases should be handled civilly, and that the government needlessly punishes with respect to the lengths of sentencing and the way they portray convicted white-collar offenders on the internet (amongst myriad other things). As I often tell my clients, when I was a stockbroker I was out to raise money, perform for my clients, and advance my career. Prosecutors are no different. Rather than trying to outperform the S&P 500, however, they prosecute us, secure lengthy prison terms and do it all under the guise of justice. In so doing, they advance their own interests. Then when they become defense attorneys these former prosecutors leverage off their career while working in the government. Indeed, they are deliberate, smart, calculated. Why aren’t more defendants?

When I read some of the releases the government puts out, I get nauseous. Many of them are written about my clients. Much of what they write is true, but much of it is spun to fit their narrative. I can willingly accept responsibility for the crimes I committed–and do–but that does not mean I have to agree with every piece of literature written about me. Much like I was out to paint a rosy picture of my services as a stockbroker, these press releases aim to convey a one sided message. It does no good to complain about it. Those that succeed embrace the reality, establish a timeline to overcome their ruined reputation, then reverse engineer their way to success. In other words, if I want to do “fill in the blank” in 3 years, I must do “fill in the blank” tomorrow.

To combat my press release, I took calculated, deliberate actions. To begin, I began writing openly and honestly about my culpability in the offense, what I was learning, and wrote out step-by-step how I intended to make investors turned victims whole. Then, I asked my readers or viewers to hold me accountable. As I wrote in the epilogue of Lessons From Prison, “If I said I was going to do something, I did it.” Now, some prisoners called me crazy for writing openly about the Ponzi Scheme I facilitated. Even some family members begged me not to use the words “Ponzi Scheme” because I would always be affiliated with Bernie Madoff.

I succeeded because I began to think differently. Rather than live in the shadows or cower in the face of adversity, I wanted to respond from a position of strength and take back control of my life. It was not easy. It’s more than writing a check to a lawyer. It is more than asking people to write character reference letters. It’s speaking openly and honestly about your crimes, why you did it, and how you will make amends.

I have had success conveying this message through television. On April 29, 2015, CNBC will air an interview I filmed with Andrew Ross Sorkin. In June, NBC will air a 60-minute documentary on my story–in my words. I have earned the right to tell my story and the data and record I have created since crossing into the wrong side of prison boundaries gives me authority to tell it my way–I pass all checks or due diligence requests.

Recently, I began working with Lifetime to film some clients who are on their way to prison. Some of the events I did before surrendering to prison and after prison were for free. This one, however, will pay each participant handsomely. Ten-thousand dollars to be exact for all participants who agree to be filmed before their surrender to prison. It is not for everyone and to be clear not everyone would qualify. Showing honest remorse and contrition are two requisites. If you do not quality, please do not reach out to me.

Imagine getting a chance to document to the world how you will emerge stronger, make your family proud, and get paid $10,000 in the process. If that is not a win-win I am not sure what is. Unlike American Greed or others that seek to filet the white-collar offender, I agreed to help Lifetime because they convey a different message. Rather than embarrass, then seek to humanize, to show what accepting responsibility looks like, and allow us to get on record how we will overcome the trauma that accompanies imprisonment.

If any of my readers have interest in participating in this event with Lifetime–and with it taking back the narrative–reach out to me at jp@etikallc.com or 818-424-2220.

Be deliberate like me, calculated and take back the narrative. With it, you will begin to take back control of your life.


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