Monday, March 2, 2009
Seventy-Eight Days Until My Release From Taft Prison Camp
This afternoon I will lead a class seminar for thirty other prisoners at Taft Camp. The class is called the Entrepreneurial Compass, and it is usually led by my friend Michael Santos, who writes for PrisonNewsBlog. We both have been amazed at the number of business professionals who have been targeted for prosecution by the criminal justice system. I can make a contribution to society by speaking about what ethics means to me, and sharing lessons I’ve learned from prison.
My presentation for the class today is not spontaneous. I take this subject of ethics very seriously, as I know that it was my sliding away from ethics that led to my troubles with the law. As a young man, I felt that I lived with strong core values. Athletics and the strong role models in my life imbued me with an appreciation of right from wrong. As I entered the class of money management, however, I began to compromise my commitment to ethics. That was a mistake with lifelong repercussions.
I am convinced that both academics and human resource departments of corporations need to offer more personal stories on ethical dilemmas of the work place. When I was a student at USC, I never paid attention to abstract concepts. Ethics did not seem like a subject that I needed to learn. At Bear Stearns and UBS, the culture of Wall Street prevailed. It was not one that placed a strong emphasis on ethics.
The other prisoners who sit in my audience today may have views that differ from mine. Most led careers in business prior to their confinement, and some were officers of publicly traded corporations. I have found that I have a deeper sense of remorse than many of the men with whom I served time — at least that has been my perception. Today I intend to open up. Perhaps together, we can find some ideas that will make a contribution of more effective ethical lessons that students and business professionals may consider.
Clearly, the need for a continuing training in ethics exists. The newspapers publish stories every day about financial scandals. I submit that many of the culprits did not set out to live as criminals. Lapses in ethics, however, led to their demise. Better training may help others. I hope to help.