When Prostate Cancer Returns – Mayo Clinic’s Choline C-11 PET Scan – Part 4

October 20, 2013

“Your prostate cancer is back.”  As any man can imagine, those were words that I didn’t want to hear.  Thought I was over this phase of my life…apparently not.  But I have two choices, dwell on how I feel or find a solution.

Mayo Clinic LogoAs the journey continues it appears that for recurring prostate cancer there are few tests (well only one that I’ve found) that can shed light on where the cancer might be in my body.  That test is the Chloine C-11 PET scan done at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

Here are comments from the Mayo Clinic website:

  • Helps detect recurrent prostate cancer sooner. Choline C-11 PET scan can help doctors detect recurrent prostate cancer before it may be detected by more conventional imaging tests. In men with rising prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, this test may help detect sites of possible recurrent prostate cancer at PSA levels as low as 2 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). Conventional tests may not detect a recurrence until PSA levels are between 20 and 30 ng/mL.
  • FDA-approved Choline C-11 PET scan site. Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is the first, and currently the only, medical center in North America to receive approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prepare and administer the Choline C-11 PET scan imaging agent (Choline C-11 Injection). Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is currently the only site in the United States using the FDA-approved imaging agent.
  • Helps identify areas of recurrent prostate cancer after all forms of treatment. Previous treatment may leave scar tissue that can be confused with active cancer when viewed using conventional imaging. Choline C-11 PET scan can help doctors distinguish between scar tissue, inactive cancer cells and active, recurrent prostate cancer.

THE PROCESS

Not being a person to delay action, I went to the Mayo Clinic site and requested the test.  Of course, it was not quite as easy as that.  I was informed that I would be approved for a consult and an appointment was scheduled.

Wow…that was easy.

Then it hit me, wonder if my insurance would pay for my treatment choice.  My wife, the person in my life that thinks more analytically than I, suggested that I call my insurance provider to see if preapproval was necessary.  Now I have to be honest, I really have a hard time with insurance.  When did big insurance companies become the dictators of one’s health?  Arrrg.

THE APPOINTMENT

Not sure what I expected, but the Mayo Clinic was far nicer that my wildest imagination.  Johns Hopkins provided great service, but the place was kind of a dump – especially compared to the Mayo facilities.  But pretty wasn’t what I was there for.

I met with Dr. Eugene Kwon and quickly found a kindred spirit.  He was articulate and focused on, what I would call, the right kind of patient care.  He made the comment that all too often Doctors, with recurrent prostate cancer, were concerned with palliative care for the patient vs. cancer elimination.  In fact, he seemed to believe that we need to do better with initial treatment options.  Either way, after our interview Dr. Kwon laid out a specific course of action that would lead me to gaining what I desired – a Choline C-11 PET scan.  But there were some pre-conditions.

1.  I would need to have a CAT scan.

2.  I would need to have a bone scan.

Now, to me, that made no sense.  But, as Dr. Kwon explained, in order for the insurance company to approve the Choline C-11 PET scan, I would have to fail both a CAT and bone scan.   While I’m not sure the costs, it appears that these are prerequisites to insurance approval for the scan that would make a difference.  Such a game and one that makes no practical sense.  Doesn’t it just make more sense for reason to rule when making decisions like this?  Seems that the insurance companies set the rules and doctors have to play by them.  What a waste of time, energy and money.

As I left the Mayo Clinic I have to admit I was impressed with the efficiency of their operation.  On the spot a PSA test was ordered and within 1 hour it was completed.  I was told that I could sign in to the Mayo Clinic website and create my own account so that we could use that as a portal for results and communication.  OK…that’s different.  And by the time I flew home and logged in (the next day) I had my PSA results.  Amazing!

NOW THE TESTS

I have to admit it’s a bit funny…both the CAT scan and bone scan are painless so why the anxiety.  It’s the freaking needle!  Yes, I am such a baby when it comes to being stuck.  So here I am at the imaging center and what I fear is a simple injection so that the scans can be done.  Oh well…it appears that I may as well prepare for the fact that being stuck is going to be an active part of life moving forward whether I like it or not.

So…I tell the nurse that I request a “baby” needle.  She looks at me kinda funny and says, “Really?”

“Yes, really!  Or perhaps you want me flopping around on the floor.”  I’ve come to understand that if I want baby treatment I will exaggerate my fear of needles so that they take me seriously.  Why not?  Seems that any babying I can get is better than just being treated as a piece of meat.  And then as they prepare my arm I hear, “Good veins!”  My I hate to hear those words as I know being stuck is the next thing that follows.

“Now drink this.”  Before the CAT scan I had to drink what seemed to be a quart (but more likely a pint) of some nasty liquid flavored with vanilla.  Now that’s a way to turn someone off of vanilla.  But drink it I did and within an hour or so, I was in for the CAT scan.  The scan – well that was easy – just lay down and the machine does the rest.

“The scan is done, Mr. Gallagher.  You’re free to leave.  Come back at one for your bone scan.”  And with those words I gladly left the imagining center for some nourishment.

MIND GAMES

The tests weren’t what was bothering me.  Rather, it was the thought that here I am at 56 and facing again those dread two words, prostate cancer.  Somehow I felt, having defeated prostate cancer once (or at least I thought I had), that I would have a long life ahead.  Now there were doubts.  Not that dying is a great fear (well I guess for us all it is at one level), but more than that it is not finishing what I came into this life to accomplish.  For the current moment, it seems that I dwell more of the value of the moment rather than taking them for granted.  Actually I wonder at times if I have done OK.  God knows that I’ve made mistakes, but I’d like to think that when I am gone – the world will be a better place.  Then I think about my life to date and wonder if it truly is.

Mostly I think of my two sons and hope that I’ve been a good enough father.  Being reared without a father, I have had little to go on as an example.  I love my sons.  Perhaps it’s time to show that more than I do.  Either way, it is becoming painfully clear that life doesn’t last forever and we all have a mortality…so what ever I can do I need to do it now.

FINAL TEST FOR TODAY

“Mr. Gallagher, step back here for your scan.”

Soft music was playing and in no time I found that I was awakening myself with a resilient snore.  Seems I had drifted off during the bone scan.

“We done here.  Hope you had a nice rest.”  And with those words this part of the journey was complete.

http://chuckgallagher.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/when-prostate-cancer-returns-one-mans-chronicle-psa-rising-part-1/

http://chuckgallagher.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/when-prostate-cancer-returns-one-mans-chronicle-where-from-here-part-2/

http://chuckgallagher.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/when-prostate-cancer-returns-researching-treatments-for-a-rising-psa-part-3/


University Cheating – is it an ethical delima? A surprising study links cheating and grades

March 18, 2010

Each day I receive (on-line) the Chronicle of Higher Education.  I skim what I see looking for interesting information that might be useful in my frequent presentations of university audiences.  As a business ethics speaker, as you can imagine I am often asked to speak to business majors on the ethical side of business choices, but a larger ethical question looms that affect all students.   So here’s the story…

Jeff Young wrote – Cheaters Never Win, at Least in Physics, a Professor Finds

A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology devised a clever way to detect student cheating on homework in his introductory physics course—and found about 50 percent more cheating than students reported in anonymous surveys. And he discovered that frequent cheaters ended up bombing their exams.

The professor, David E. Pritchard, led a research team that analyzed student performance in an online homework system called MasteringPhysics.com during four different semesters. The researchers were able to measure the time spent on each question and look for suspicious work patterns. If a student took less than a minute each answering several complex questions and got them all right, for instance, the system flagged that as likely cheating. “Since one minute is insufficient time to read the problem and enter the several answers typically required, we infer that the quick-solver group is copying the answer from somewhere,” said the researchers in a paper due out today in the free online journal Physical Review Special Topics–Physics Education Research.

The interesting part of this story for most is how the study correlated the consequence between cheating students and their test grades.  Interesting stuff, but perhaps no great surprise.  If you don’t study and don’t do your homework, how could you assume that anyone would do great on tests?

From my perspective the study, while interesting, revealed attitudes that showed ethical deficiencies.  When there is an ethics lapse, review will generally reveal three components – NEED, OPPORTUNITY and RATIONALIZATION.  So lets look at other parts of Mr. Young’s article and see what we can find.

Researchers found that the culprits typically copied answers from friends, by logging onto a friend’s account on the system to copy work or by getting answers via e-mail or instant message.

OPPORTUNITY – how the students cheated showed that it was not sophisticated.  Rather, the likelihood that a student will cheat is related to the ease in which one might do so.  In other words (less academically put)…if OPPORTUNITY is present, students (under pressure) will choose to cheat.

More students cheated later in the semester than in the beginning, and many students surveyed said that time pressures led them to copy a friend’s work.

Interesting … PRESSURE combined with opportunity was cited as a prime reason that students resorted to cheating.  In fact the patter is similar to those who commit white collar crime.  The fraudster is not an inherently bad person, rather, they succumb to pressure by taking OPPORTUNITY  to relieve the pressure.  In fact, the PRESSURE might be considered the NEED portion of the equation.  One might assume that if there was a reduced homework requirement (less pressure) then there would be a greater likelihood that cheating would be reduced.  Just a theory…

Either one cares less if they cheat, lie or steal OR through personal RATIONALIZATION they convert their unethical behavior into something that intellectually and/or emotionally they can deal with.  Here’s what the article says…

“If you look at the self-reported data, over half the kids think receiving unfair help is either not a big deal or trivial,” Mr. Pritchard said in an interview. Among other reasons students gave for cheating: “I knew this pretty well from my high-school physics course so it was only review,” and “not motivated to learn physics because I don’t enjoy it and it’s not needed for my major.”

Mr. Pritchard said that many professors turn a blind eye when students cheat on homework. “A lot of people are willing to forgive copying because they think those students are weaker— that they work as hard but just aren’t as able to get them,” he said. But he said their research showed that cheaters were most often those who waited until the last minute to start the work and that they copy answers before even trying the problems.

IT’S A THREE LEGGED STOOL:

If you wish to reduce fraud, remove one of the legs – then it can’t stand.  The same is true when it comes to cheating in school.  Whether it was part of his model, in effect the professor involved removed one of the legs – HE CHANGED THE TEACHING MODEL.

The professor said he did find a way to greatly reduce cheating on homework in his class. He switched to a “studio” model of teaching, in which students sit in small groups working through tutorials on computers while professors and teaching assistants roam the room answering questions, rather than a traditional lecture. With lectures, he detected cheating on about 11 percent of homework problems, but now he detects copying on only about 3 percent of them.

Great article Mr. Young.  And for those Universities who grapple with the issues of ethics and cheating…I can see this research now becoming part of my presentation.  Somehow I think the students will get this…

YOUR COMMENTS WELCOME!


Reid’s Negro comment and the Ethical message we are sending…

January 12, 2010

Frankly I don’t care whether Harry Reid keeps his political position or not.  It’s obvious that he’s stuck his foot in his mouth based on the political firestorm that seems to have erupted.  Rather, as an ethics speaker, I would like to raise the discussion about what message we are sending to our young people when it comes to truth and free speech.

Harry Reid spoke the truth.  Nothing he said had not been said by rank and file Americans as the election process proceeded.  Anyone who paid attention to the election from the primaries forward, at first, would have doubted that an inexperienced Senator (who happened to be Black or African-American – which is politically correct seems to be determined on who you speak with) could win his parties nomination.  Most would have felt that American’s were not ready for a non-white President.  Who knew…?

But, as Barack Obama put himself before the public it became clear that his articulation and young new face was just what the country wanted.  Reid said – he was a light skinned black man who did not have a “negro dialect” (unless he wanted to have one).  And, that combination made Obama electable.  Now…please tell me – was Reid inaccurate in his comment.

As a professional speaker I firmly believe that President Obama skills at oration (like those of John Kennedy) captured the imagination of the American people and dramatically contributed to his crossover appeal to the large American population instead of finding himself a divided racial wonder.

ETHICAL ISSUE:  For days now Harry Reid finds himself embroiled in this controversy.  But, he spoke the truth.  So, what message are we sending to our youth?

1.  Speak the TRUTH and find that it’s (the truth) not politically correct and lose your job?

2.  POLITICALLY CORRECT comments are more valuable than the truth?

3.  Political Correctness is the TRUTH?

For the life of me, I just don’t get what all the fuss is about.  Wouldn’t it be better to honor the truth and dismiss POLITICALLY CORRECTNESS – isn’t that the ethical high road.

It seems that we are more concerned with not offending than we are with allowing TRUTH to be spoken.

HOW DO YOU SEE THIS?


No Negro Dialect – Harry Reid Apologizes! But What About All This “Political Correctness”?

January 9, 2010

So here’s the CNN report today:  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid apologized Saturday following reports he had privately described then-candidate Barack Obama during the presidential campaign as a black candidate who could be successful thanks in part to his “light-skinned” appearance and speaking patterns “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

Apparently Mr. Reid’s comments are included in a book soon to be released in journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s new book “Game Change.”

I’m sorry, but I must admit…this political correctness thing is just becoming way too burdensome.  I expect criticism from this post, but it’s getting to the point that a person, especially in the public eye, can’t express themselves without offending someone.  Is it not possible anymore to express your opinion and allow folks to accept you for who or what you are?

LETS BE FRANK!

I’m a speaker.  Over and over I hear about what one should say and how one should say it in front of an audience.  Don’t offend.  Well, I’m becoming more and more convinced that offending is becoming easier and speaking what’s on your mind more difficult.

Reid verbalized what many American’s said about Obama before the election.  I admire Obama’s voice, speech patterns and ability to deliver a speech and inspire a crowd.  Now…here’s a fact.  If Obama spoke like a street thug – be he black or white…he would not have captured the imagination of the American people.  Straight up – Obama did not speak like stereotypical black man and that did contribute to making him electable.

If, candidate Obama, had said in a speech over and over again – “Let me axe you a question…” vs. “Let me ask you a question…” – would he have been elected by the American people?  REALLY…I’D LIKE TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK…  But read on…

SO WHAT DO YOU DO?

Fact: I was in prison in the mid-90’s and my cellmate was a young black ma named – Buck.  Buck became one of my closest friends and taught me much…in fact, he is one of the reasons that my prison experience became such a profound learning experience.  Today, when I deliver a speech I often share a dialogue that Buck and I had on my second day in prison.  When I share this exchange…I carry on the conversation just like it happened – speaking and sounding just like Buck.  He sounded like a Black street thug – which is exactly what he was when he entered prison.

I’ve been told – “Oh, you can’t do that.  You’re degrading African-Americans.”

No.  I’m not.  I’m sharing with an audience exactly what happened – tone speech patterns and all.  The lessons I learned from Buck happened, in part, because I was able to learn from his street smarts just as he was able to learn from my education.  Speaking like Buck is real.  What Harry Reid said was real and true.  I just don’t see what all the fuss is about.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?


Jerome O’Hara and George Perez charged in Madoff scandal. Hush money for technical support!

January 8, 2010

Two computer programmers were charged for their role in helping convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard L. Madoff cover up the fraud at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (BMIS) for more than 15 years.  According to the SEC investigation, Jerome O’Hara of Malverne, N.Y., and George Perez of East Brunswick, N.J.,  are alleged to have provided the technical support necessary to produce false documents and trading records, and took hush money to help keep the scheme going.

“Without the help of O’Hara and Perez, the Madoff fraud would not have been possible,” said George S. Canellos, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. “They used their special computer skills to create sophisticated, credible and entirely phony trading records that were critical to the success of Madoff’s scheme for so many years.”

According to the SEC’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Madoff and his lieutenant Frank DiPascali, Jr., routinely asked O’Hara and Perez for their help in creating records that, among other things, combined actual positions and activity from BMIS’ market-making and proprietary trading businesses with the fictional balances maintained in investor accounts. O’Hara and Perez wrote programs that generated many thousands of pages of fake trade blotters, stock records, Depository Trust Corporation (DTC) reports and other phantom books and records to substantiate nonexistent trading. They assigned file names to many of these programs that began with “SPCL,” which is short for “special.”

A separate computer internally known as “House 17″ was used to process BMIS investment advisory account data at the direction of Madoff, DiPascali and others. The SEC alleges that O’Hara and Perez knew that the House 17 computer was missing a host of functioning programs necessary for actual securities trading and reporting. According to the SEC’s complaint, they recognized that the trades being entered into House 17 and the account statements and trade confirmations being sent to investors did not reflect actual trades.

So here’s the scoop according to the SEC – “O’Hara and Perez had a crisis of conscience in 2006 and tried to cover their tracks by attempting to delete approximately 218 of the 225 special programs from the House 17 computer. But they did not delete the monthly backup tapes. O’Hara and Perez then cashed out hundreds of thousands of dollars each from their personal BMIS accounts before confronting Madoff and refusing to generate any more fabricated books and records.”

AND WHAT DID THEY GET FOR THEIR EFFORTS?  A salary increase of 25% and a $60,000 bonus.  That’s right.  Now when I read that I was amazed.  A multi billion dollar scheme and the result is a pay raise and a bonus.

Further, the SEC alleges that they stated to DiPascali, a Madoff lieutenant, at the time that they did not ask for more because a greater amount might appear too suspicious. DiPascali then managed to convince O’Hara and Perez to modify computer programs so that he and other 17th floor employees could create the necessary reports themselves.

This goes beyond an ethics violation.  It is so far removed from ethical behavior that it isn’t funny.  What is now coming to light is what has been suspected for some time – Madoff wasn’t in this alone.  As an ethics and fraud prevention speaker, there is no way that one person could create and effect this fraud.  Bernie Madoff may be the point person, but the collapse in the house of cards has just begun.  More will fall as the investigation continues.

Here’s what I don’t get.  The three components of fraud are: NEED – OPPORTUNITY and RATIONALIZATION.  Now, it didn’t seem at the outset that NEED was obvious.  Unless there is something that hasn’t been reported, these fellows weren’t gaining initially from the efforts of their work.  So how did they RATIONALIZE that their behavior was legitimate, ethical or normal?  Most frauds tie their three components together, but in the case of O’Hara and Perez it seemed that they were just part of the group and became, at least initially, brainwashed into believing that what they were doing was right.

If you have a connection to either O’Hara or Perez and have some insight feel free to comment.

COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


David G. Friehling, CPA for Bernie Madoff Investment Securities Charged with Fraud! And The Dominios Begin To Fall…

March 19, 2009

With a $65 Billion Ponzi scheme in play and Bernie Madoff electing to plead guilty, it is no great surprise that others will being to fall as the government widens the responsibility net for the largest Ponzi scheme in US history.

I must admit this hits home and was something I expected.  Although I wish I could say something different, I, too, was a CPA, created a Ponzi scheme and spent time in Federal prison.  It is no fun.  And, without a doubt, Friehling will spend time there himself – although my guess – his sentence will much longer than mine.

Yesterday, David G. Friehling, CPA (licensed in the State of New York) was charged with securities fraud, aiding and abetting investment adviser fraud, and 19madoff190 four counts of filing false audit reports with theExchange Commission (“SEC”).   Friehling is the sole practitioner at Friehling & Horowitz, CPAs, P.C. in New York.  As a point of reference, Friehling was the son-in-law of Jerome Horowitz (his former accounting partner) who didn’t live to see it all unravel.  He dided on March 12, the day Madoff plead guilty.

According to a news release issued by the US Attorney’s office:

From 1991 through 2008, F&H was the accounting firm retained by BLMIS (Bernie L. Madoff Investment Securities) purportedly to audit BLMIS’s financial statements. FRIEHLING created BLMIS’s certified and purportedly audited financial statements, including balance sheets, statements of income, statements of cash flows, and reports on internal control. FRIEHLING falsely certified that he had prepared such statements in accordance with Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (“GAAS”) and in conformity with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (“GAAP”). Those financial  statements were filed with the SEC and sent to clients of BLMIS.   BLMIS paid FRIEHLING approximately $12,000 to $14,500 per month for his services between 2004 and 2007.

Sorry, but before going any further, one must question the payment.  $14,500 a month is a small price to pay for disgusing a fraud considering that Friehling will be facing certain loss of his license and a lot of time in Federal Prison.  But, there is more…  the news release goes on to say:

FRIEHLING failed to conduct audits that complied with GAAS and GAAP by, among other things, failing to: (a) conduct independent verification of BLMIS assets; (b) review material sources of BLMIS revenue, including commissions; (c) examine a bank account through which billions of dollars of BLMIS client funds flowed; (d) verify liabilities related to BLMIS client accounts; or (e) verify the purchase and custody of securities by BLMIS. FRIEHLING also failed to test internal controls as required under GAAP and GAAS standards. For example, FRIEHLING did not take any steps to test internal controls over areas such as BLMIS’s redemption of client funds, the payment of invoices for corporate expenses, or the purchase of securities by BLMIS on behalf of its clients. Further, commencing at least as far back as 1995, FRIEHLING did not maintain professional independence from his audit client, BLMIS.   Specifically, FRIEHLING and/or his wife had an account at BLMIS with a year-end net equity of more than $500,000 — the maximum amount that, under SEC rules, he could have invested with a broker-dealer client and still maintain his independence.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Friehling similarly did not conduct any audit procedures with respect to BMIS internal controls, and had no basis to represent that BMIS had no material inadequacies. Afraid that his work for BMIS would be subject to peer review, as required of accountants who conduct audits, Friehling lied to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants for years and denied that he conducted any audit work.

Articles in Forbes stated the following:

“Friehling essentially sold his license to Madoff for more than 17 years while Madoff’s Ponzi scheme went undetected,” said James Clarkson, acting director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. “For all those years, Friehling deceived investors and regulators by declaring that Madoff’s enterprise had a clean audit record.”

Madoff has said his business didn’t become a Ponzi scheme until the early 1990s, around the time that Horowitz retired and Friehling took over. He was not accused of wrongdoing in the court complaint.

Numerous reports claim that Friehling and family had $14 million invested with Madoff two months before his confession to the largest financial fraud in US history.  Since 2000, Friehling withdrew about $5.5 million from those accounts, the SEC stated.

WHERE FROM HERE?

Bernie Madoff, while perhaps brilliant (in his own way) is not capable – in my opinion – of pulling off a fraud of this magnitude without help.  I am not suggesting that Friehling knew about the Ponzi scheme (he says he didn’t), but it is likely that he’ll be found guilty on most of the charges as there is no doubt that he’s (at a minimum) negligent.  Selling his license for money seems very clear.

But, from these headlines, I suspect there will be a demand for more “accountability” for audited financial statements and regulations placed on compliant CPA’s.  That is not the answer.  I have stated before and will again, you cannot legislate or regulate ethics or morality.  If a person elects to be dishonest…they will be dishonest regardless of the rules in place.

Friehling was a puppet for Bernard Madoff.  Most people (although most will deny it) have a price.  It appears that Friehling’s price wasn’t all that much.  Comfortable yes – rich no!  And knowing that his reputation is ruined, his license all but gone and many many years in prison facing him, I know that Friehling wishes he’d never met Bernie Madoff.  Hind sight is 20/20 and there is no doubt with all that is facing this CPA – Friehling is just beginning to face the consequences of his choices.

Every choice has a consequence!

My prediction – Friehling isn’t the only pawn is this massive fraud to fall.  There will be others so stay tuned…

FRIEHLING, 49, faces a statutory maximum sentence of 105 years in prison.

YOUR COMMENTS WELCOME!

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AIG Bonuses – Ethical or Insane? Business Ethics Speaker Chuck Gallagher Comments…

March 16, 2009

I want to make this clear – I am pro business!  I think that free enterprise is the life blood of our economic system and I fully support people making lots of aigmoney.  But, I have to question whether the payment of upwards of $165 million in bonuses to AIG employees is ethical or just insane?

QUESTION ONE:

The arguement in favor of AIG paying the bonuses is that the contracts that generated the bonuses were established before the economic meltdown and before AIG accepted government bailout money.  Employees who work(ed) for AIG therefore should be entitled to payment under the terms of their contract for services performed.

  • Do you agree?
  • Does the company have an ethical or moral obligation to pay regardless of circumstances?

QUESTION TWO:

AIG has accepted, according to published reports, upwards of $170 BILLION of government bailout money.  Sorry for the editoral content, but that is quite amazing by any standard that I could consider.  Nothing like that has happened in my lifetime and I’m over a half century in years.  So – here are some questions to consider:

  • Should AIG be forced to void pre-existing employment and bonus contracts if they accept government bailout money?
  • Should bonuses be paid?
  • What basis or grounds for payment or nonpayment make sense for AIG?

QUESTION THREE:

If a homebuilder constructs a home and finds that he/she cannot sell it for the asking price and, in fact, finds that the market for his product is below the construction loan – what happens?  Most of the time, the bank will foreclose and the sub-contractors, who have mechanic leins against the property, lose their time and receivable.  In other words, they lose because circumstances have changed.

  • Is AIG in the same circumstance?
  • Should the employment compensation contracts be treated similar to a mechanics lien – void through forclosure?
  • Is the government’s bailout of AIG in effect a forclosure to avoid bankrupcy?
  • Is there any reason that AIG should be treated differently than other small businesses that are unable to honor their commitments today?

FINAL THOUGHTS:

The definition of business ethics is, in business situations, the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with a moral duty and obligation.  The question for AIG is – what is the ethical thing to do?  As a business ethics speaker, there is no right or wrong answer to most situations, it rather is a function of doing the right thing considering all the facts and circumstances.  My opinion – the moral duty and obligation in this situation is to void the employment bonus contracts and accept that were it not for the taxpayers, AIG would not be in business!

Now is the time for AIG and any organization that accpets bailout money to make the tough decisions that honor the trust that the federal government and taxpayers have given them.  Look to Lee Iacocca’s example – when the government bailed out Chrysler, he took $1 as his compensation.  Perhaps the folks at AIG should take note.  One thing is for sure they are not winning friends and influencing people – at least not positively.

YOUR COMMENTS WELCOME!



Bruce Karatz, former CEO of KB Homes – Indicited! Were His Choices Ethical?

March 9, 2009

Having begun a formal probe by the SEC in 2007, a federal grand jury has indicted Bruce Karatz.  The 20-count indictment included seven counts of mail fraud, five counts of wire fraud, three counts of securities fraud, four counts of lying in statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and one count of lying to KB Home’s accountants.

Well…with all those indictments, if found guilty on all charges, Mr. Karatz could face up to 415 years in prison.  Seems like the alleged frauds are getting larger as are the potential sentences.

Reported by the Dallas Business Journal:

Los Angeles-based KB Home was the 21st-largest home builder in North Texas in 2008, with 239 housing starts, according to DBJ research. bruce-karatz_454168742The company started 513 North Texas homes in 2007, and 1,216 in 2006.

Karatz, 63, is alleged to have backdated stock options over seven years, awarding himself and others millions in stock-based compensation. Karatz resigned from KB Home (NYSE: KBH) in November 2006 under pressure in the wake of an options inquiry. Other top KB executives forced out were Richard B. Hirst, executive vice president and chief legal officer, and Gary A. Ray, the head of human resources.

The Los Angeles Times reports: “Karatz, 63, served as chairman and chief executive of Westwood-based KB Home from 1986 to 2006, when he resigned under fire. Over a three-year period ending in 2005, Karatz garnered more than $232 million in compensation.”

The Times further reports:

The indictment does not say exactly how much Karatz gained as a result, but KB Home required Karatz to pay back $13 million in backdating gains when he left the company in 2006. And the SEC agreed to a settlement of $7.2 million with Karatz in 2008 to cover what it reckoned were his gains.

Karatz has long been a target of shareholder activists and labor unions, who accused him of taking more than his fair share of company profit. In 2005, the year before he stepped down, Karatz had take-home pay of $6.3 million, but he received an additional $150 million, mostly from exercising stock options.

As a business ethics speaker, it is clear that transparency is the order of the day.  Long gone are the days (or at least they should be gone) when corporate compensation is a behind closed door discussion.  I am certainly open to executive compensation that is fair and rewards those in leadership for outstanding performance.  However, any person in executive leadership in a public company must be alert to the consequences of the choices they make.

Every choice has a conseqence.  Bruce Karatz has been dealing with the consequences of his leadership at KB Home for the past several years.  It would appear that, if convicted, he will have many years ahead to review his leadership choices.

If you worked for KB Homes and have an opinion on Mr. Karatz’s leadership feel free to comment!


Facebook – Nude Student Photos and a College IT Administrator: Robert T. DeCampos, Jr. – Dumb and Dumber!

March 6, 2009

I never cease to be amazed at the stupidity of what people will do with social networking.  Dumb – don’t put nude pictures on your facebook account!  That most would say that is common sense, but it seems that “common sense” goes out the window with some folks when it comes to their Facebook or MySpace pages.

Perhaps someone will get a clue – these are public and can be found!

ADVICE:  Don’t put anything on Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn or any other site that you wouldn’t want your mother or boss to see.  If you feel that you could be fired or severely scolded for your entries – don’t put it on the site.

Enough Said!  facebook-logo

CRIMINAL ACTIVITY:

According to SouthCoasttoday.com – Robert T. DeCampos Jr., 30, a Dartmouth resident, and computer administrator, faces charges that he illegally obtained nude and semi-nude photos of about 16 female students by hacking into their UMass e-mail accounts and Facebook files.

What did he allegedly do and how?  According to published reports:

His first step, according to court documents, was to search Facebook for female UMass Dartmouth students. Next, he checked the names with the campus Web site.

Then he would use his administrative authority to access their e-mail, where he would attempt to log into their personal Facebook accounts. When that failed because he lacked their Facebook passwords, he would have Facebook send a link for a new password back to their e-mail. The hacker would then open the e-mail to reset the password, then enter Facebook with all the privileges and access of the student.

At that point he could view all of the students’ photographs, including private ones, and do further searches for their friends.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education:

The university fired Mr. DeCampos last fall after police searched his home and found a portable flash drive containing the photos. Mr. DeCampos, who was released on his own recognizance after the arraignment, is being charged with 13 misdemeanor counts of unauthorized access, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and $13,000 in fines. He is also being charged with one count of felony larceny, which could mean up to a five-year jail term and a $25,000 fine.

The Boston Herald also reported:  “Robert T. DeCampos Jr. also attempted to snap “upskirt” images of shoppers at an electronics store in Dartmouth, authorities said yesterday, following a four-month probe into the alleged cyber snooping, according to the New Bedford Standard-Times.”

THOUGHTS:

It appears obvious that DeCampos (while innocent until proven guilty) is experiencing the consequences of his choices.  As an ethics speaker, there is little doubt that DeCampos will likely serve time in prison for his actions.  But there is another question that deserves attention: why would someone put nude or partially nude photos on Facebook?  Is there really a thougth that Facebook is private – that there are no consequences of the student’s actions?

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?


Senator Grassley: Another Inquiry – What Did Pfizer Pay to Faculty Members at Harvard Medical School?

March 5, 2009

The last time I wrote about Senator Grassley was when he requested financial data from six tele-evanglists.  Looks like that went basically no where.  Too much resistance perhaps.  Now the Senator has requested information from Pfizer.    In a New York Times article it is reported that Senator Grassley asked the drug maker Pfizer to provide details of its payments to at least 149 faculty members at Harvard Medical School. charles-grassley

Senator Grassley’s letter is reproduced as follows:

Jeffrey B. Kindler
Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
Pfizer Inc.
235 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017

Dear Mr. Kindler:

The United States Senate Committee on Finance (Committee) has jurisdiction
over the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  As a senior member of the United States
Senate and as Ranking Member of the Committee, I have a special responsibility to the
more than 80 million Americans who receive health care coverage under those programs
to ensure that beneficiaries receive drugs that are both safe and effective.

For the last three years, the Committee has investigated various aspects of the
pharmaceutical industry including industry funding for Continuing Medical Education
(CME), and the failure of physicians to disclose payments from industry when applying
for grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Further, inquiries have led the
Committee to believe that physicians are failing to disclose the money they receive from
companies as required by federal regulations governing NIH grantees.

I am currently looking further into these concerns.  I was greatly disturbed to read
an article in The New York Times documenting an employee of your organization who
was taking cellphone photos of Harvard University (Harvard) medical students
demonstrating against pharmaceutical influence on campus.  I find this troubling as I
have documented several instances where pharmaceutical companies have attempted to
intimidate academic critics of drugs.  Last February, I sent a letter to the Secretary of
Health and Human Services pointing out that a pharmaceutical company hired a private
investigative firm to background an FDA public safety officer.

While I am not certain that photographing demonstrators rises to the same level, it
does raise concerns that Pfizer is attempting to intimidate young scholars from professing
their independent views on issues that they think are critical to science, medicine, and the
health and welfare of American taxpayers.

Accordingly, I request that you provide the following information:

1) A detailed account of payments and/or benefits of any kind that your company
has given to the 149 Harvard faculty members mentioned in The New York Times
article, and any other unreported Harvard doctors receiving payments.  The time
span of this request covers January 1, 2007 through the date of this letter.  For
each doctor receiving payments, please provide the following information for
each payment:

a. Name and title of doctor,
b. Date of payment,
c. Payment description (CME, honorarium, research support, etc),
d. Amount of payment, and
e. Year end or year-to-date payment.

2) Any communications to include emails, faxes, letters, and photos regarding
Harvard medical students demonstrating and/or agitating against pharmaceutical
influence in medicine.  The time span of this request covers January 1, 2008 to the
present.

In cooperating with the Committee’s review, no documents, records, data, or
other information related to these matters, either directly or indirectly, shall be destroyed,
modified, removed, or otherwise made inaccessible to the Committee.

I look forward to hearing from you by no later than March 10, 2009.  All
documents responsive to this request should be sent electronically, on a disc, in
searchable PDF format to Brian_Downey@finance-rep.senate.gov.  If you have any
questions, please do not hesitate to contact Paul Thacker or Emilia DiSanto at (202) 224-
4515.

In an article entitled: Harvard Medical School in Ethics Quandary the following was reported:03medschool1600

In a first-year pharmacology class at Harvard Medical School, Matt Zerden grew wary as the professor promoted the benefits of cholesterol drugs and seemed to belittle a student who asked about side effects.

Mr. Zerden later discovered something by searching online that he began sharing with his classmates. The professor was not only a full-time member of the Harvard Medical faculty, but a paid consultant to 10 drug companies, including five makers of cholesterol treatments.

“I felt really violated,” Mr. Zerden, now a fourth-year student, recently recalled. “Here we have 160 open minds trying to learn the basics in a protected space, and the information he was giving wasn’t as pure as I think it should be.”

Mr. Zerden’s minor stir four years ago has lately grown into a full-blown movement by more than 200 Harvard Medical School students and sympathetic faculty, intent on exposing and curtailing the industry influence in their classrooms and laboratories, as well as in Harvard’s 17 affiliated teaching hospitals and institutes.

As an ethics speaker, often I hear complaints about banking and finance, yet ethics extend into all areas of enterprise.  Pfizer has agreed, unlike the tele-evanglists, to cooperate fully with Grassley’s requests.  My guess is that Pfizer will be exposed for what likely has been an industry standard – shall we call it “payola”?  Harvard, without admitting guilt, of course, will find a source of funds drying up and be embarrassed by their choices or “ethics” being called into question.

What do you think?  Is it unethical for an individual or organization to take money from vendors when it has been an unspoken industry standard?

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


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