Earnings Pressure – Business Ethics – Consequences

According to the US Attorney for the Southern District of NY – Paul Humphreys, former CFO for Safety-Kleen, was sentenced to 70 months in prison for securities and bank fraud.

It seems that Mr. Humphreys was convicted for his role in manipulating Safety-Kleen’s financial statements.  The indictment alleges that this was a fraud designed to help Safety-Kleen meet earnings targets projected for the completion of a merger with Rollins Environmental Services.

“Approximately eight to ten business days following the close of each quarter, senior management held operations conference calls with representatives of various field offices to discuss the quarterly results and compare them with budgeted and/or prior year results. Thereafter, HUMPHREYS met with one or more co-conspirators, informed them of a higher “target” earnings number which HUMPHREYS wanted the company to publicly report.”

70 months!

He’ll serve a 60 month active sentence in Federal Prison – almost 10% of his life will be spent there.   And all done in order to make a company meet projections.  Wonder if today he would say that was a good investment of his time and energy?

As a motivational speaker on Business Ethics I hear people say so often, “There’s no such thing as business ethics.”  Frankly I want to look them in the eye and ask them what planet they’re from.  “No. NO,” they’ll say.  “People have ethics not businesses.”

Well that’s true.  People do have ethics.  But, I’ll submit to anyone reading that most people are, in fact, ethical.  We know right from wrong and how to apply ethical principles.  Yet, I went to prison.  (Not something that I’m proud of, but a fact none-the-less).  I was not inherently unethical.  And, I would bet neither was Mr. Humphreys.  Rather, we both fell into similar traps.  We had a need.  We had an opportunity.  And we could rationalize our behavior.  Perfect circumstances for bad choices and even worse consequences.

Every choice has a consequence!  Mr. Humphreys is soon to experience the continuation of his – and he won’t like it – not one little bit.

I speak to groups all over the US about business ethics – choices and consequences.  I know first hand what Mr. Humphrey’s will face.  I also know how to break the chains that can bid us.

What prison are you in?  How have your choices brought about life changing consequences?  And what do you think about business ethics?prison1.jpg

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