Financial newspapers continue reporting on the widening probe federal prosecutors have launched into insider trading cases. This morning, for example, I read that the SEC filed a lawsuit against against Trivium Capital Management, a hedge fund and its founder, Robert Feinblatt. Also charged were Jeff Yokuty, an analyst, Sunil Bhalla, formerly of Polycom, and consultant Shammara Hussain.

Personal experiences make it easy for me to identify with those who now live under the microscope of government investigators. They’re searching press releases from the DOJ and SEC, hoping that they don’t come across their own names, and when they do see it they pray that no one else comes across it. It’s traumatic. In the beginning, what troubles those individuals most is that their reputations are being sullied and they’re having difficulty comprehending that federal officials are considering them for wrongdoing. It’s incomprehensible for financial professionals to contemplate that they’ll ever face problems with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and thoughts about their being targets of the criminal justice department are even more surreal.

When I was a stockbroker at such distinguished firms as Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, and UBS, my only thoughts were of generating high returns for my clients while simultaneously earning high commissions for my firm and me. It never occurred to me that government regulators would ever have reason to question my work, my ethics, or my compliance with securities laws. As I read the newspaper reports about specialist firms that researched public companies in an effort to provide information that could influence more profitable trades, I’m quite sure that those individuals did not have any criminal intent. Rather, they were trying to stay competitive, to provide more value.

I’m quite sure that those individuals never contemplated that their actions would lead them into the vise grips of the criminal justice system. But ignorance of the law doesn’t excuse those who break the law, at least not in the eyes of federal prosecutors. As a broker I aggressively pursued commissions; likewise, as federal prosecutors, government lawyers aggressively pursue convictions when they detect wrongdoing. White-collar offenders frequently contact me with requests that I help them navigate the storms ahead. Although I cannot change the decisions that put white-collar defendants within the grips of federal prosecutors, I am a good compass and I am well qualified to help them detect the cross currents ahead.

I’m good at detecting the currents because I’ve gone through those currents before, and I’ve come out the other side standing. While serving my time at Taft Federal Prison Camp, I realized my calling to help others do the same. What’s important to know, I think, is that there’s always a time to begin making better decisions. It’s sometimes difficult to accept that in order to move forward, an individual must first fully put the past in the past. That means ending the denial. In my predicament, abandoning that denial was the most difficult thing for me to do. Truth be told, prior to my surrender, I would lay still for days on end, unable to reason, to think, to understand what was coming because I was fixated on just one emotion: denial. I later learned that the longer I waited to accept responsibility and begin working toward a solution, the more expensive my ordeal became, the more I hurt those who cared about me, and the more deeply I dug myself into problems.

Those who are struggling with problems with the Department of Justice or with the Securities and Exchange Commission may find some value in my books, Lessons From Prison or Ethics in Motion. Those who want to talk should give me a call. I can help. I can be reached at 818-424-2220 or by e-mail at justinpaperny@etikallc.com.

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