Rich Dad Poor Dad Ethics on the line – Robert T. Kiyosaki files for Bankruptcy. Choices Consequences and an Ethical Challenge!

October 18, 2012

Just a few days ago it was reported that Robert Kiyosaki of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” fame filed for corporate bankruptcy through Rich Global LLC – one of his many companies.  Rich Global LLC filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection on Aug. 20 in a Wyoming bankruptcy court.  The New York Post reported the following:

Robert Kiyosaki

After a long, lucrative career writing financial self-help books and giving seminars, “Rich Dad Poor Dad” author Robert Kiyosaki has filed for bankruptcy for one of his companies after losing a $24 million court judgment.

Kiyosaki’s Rich Global LLC filed for bankruptcy after being ordered to pay nearly $24 million to the Learning Annex and its founder and chairman, Bill Zanker.

US District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin in April ordered Rich Global to pay up $23,687,957.21 after a jury ruled Kiyosaki must give the Learning Annex a percentage of his profits after using their platform for speaking engagements, including a 2002 gig at Madison Square Garden.

The challenge here, at least for me, is not the bankruptcy filing – rather it’s the ethical implication related to the filing.  The short version is that there was an agreement with the Learning Annex to promote Kiyosaki and his brand for a percentage.  By all accounts they did their part.  The challenge is they claim that Kiyosaki didn’t do his.  In other words he didn’t pay up.  Again the New York Post states:

Zanker told us, “I took Kiyosaki’s brand and made it bigger. The deal was I would get a percentage, and he reneged. We had a signed letter of intent. The Learning Annex is the greatest promoter. We put his ‘Rich Dad’ brand on a stage. We truly prepared him for great fame and riches. But when it was time for him to pay up, he said ‘no.’ ” This has taken years in court. I won even more money than I asked for from the jury, then he declared corporate bankruptcy. Oprah believed in him, and Will Smith believed in him, but he didn’t keep his promise to us.”

Mike Sullivan, CEO of Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Co., told us that Kiyosaki, said to be worth $80 million, was still doing very well thanks to investments in other companies: “The dealings we had with Learning Annex were with a company that hasn’t been in business for a number of years . . . I am not surprised Learning Annex is upset and angry, the money doesn’t exist in that company, and we can’t bring money out of the group.

The core question – If a jury in a court of law says that you failed to honor your contract with a service provider and they establish an award as punishment, compensation, or justice for the failure that they found existed, is it ethical to use the legal system to avoid the consequence?

“Robert and [wife] Kim are not paying out of personal assets. We have a few million dollars in this company, but not 16 or 20. I can’t do anything about a $20 million judgment . . . We got hit for what we think is a completely outlandish figure.”

Reportedly work some $80 million, it would seem that Kiyosaki’s ethical limit is defined by money.  But is that right?  Certainly many would argue that the legal system is designed to protect one from unfair or unjust circumstances much like what I suspect Kiyosaki feels he received.  Yet, others would argue that justice was served at the hand of the jury and that Kiyosaki has an ethical moral obligation to honor the award and pay up.

But what if we take this to a higher plain.  Is it possible that short of paying up based on the idea that it is moral, ethical and founded in integrity, that failure to do so will create the desired outcome anyway?  Is it possible that when one violates, what to some is simple ethics, that reality is karma takes over and delivers the outcome or consequence anyway?

It is not up to me to judge – rather I am interested in the ethical questions and what you think.  YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!

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Bottom Line or Business Ethics – Which is more Important? Judith Samuelson’s article discusses – Chuck Gallagher Business Ethics Speaker comments…

July 21, 2012

There have been a flurry of articles lately about what and how business schools teach business ethics.  The most recent, an article written by Judith Samuelson on the HUFF Post Business section states the following:  “Research conducted by the Aspen Institute suggests that ethics IS taught in business schools, and, increasingly, with an eye to making it stick by embedding it in orientation programs, “learning journeys,” core course work and hands-on experience.”

It is in the first part of her article that I take exception.  As a business ethics speaker and author I see first hand what seems to be the norm for business ethics offerings in b-schools and it’s pathetic – at least that’s my opinion.  Samuelson goes on to say, “Business ethics goes by many names and the vast majority of schools in the Institute’s ranking of business schools require ethics or something that goes by the name of “social responsibility,” “social enterprise,” “social impact” or “leadership and values.””

REALLY?  Social responsibility?  Social enterprise?  Leadership and values?  Come on…you can call it what you want, but if you don’t teach beyond the theory of what is socially acceptable or how leadership intersects moral norms, you effectively have little more than just fluff!  Theoretical fluff…I would call it and that has little impact in the real world when faced with split second decisions that have an impact far beyond the moment.

One clue comes from the inside. Luigi Zingales, a titan of the academy of finance who teaches at the University of Chicago, argues that business education across the disciplines needs to move from a stance of “values neutrality” to one where students are exposed to the moral decisions that permeate the core of business. Zingales suggests we deliver “ethics” in accounting and finance rather than a course labeled Ethics, which is bound to turn off motivated students looking to get ahead.

Interesting paragraph by Samuelson.  Intriguing that Zingales wants to hide ethics in some other course because it turns off motivated students who want to get ahead.  I have an alternate suggestion…  Educate students with the course – “How to avoid an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs” – in other words make ethics real and alive.  What do the professors know about the real world of federal prison, how one turns to the dark side and what happens when that happens.  Pardon the bluntness, but perhaps students should be scared sh*tless and know the real world implications of their (sometimes misguided) desire to get ahead.

Samuelson shares: To the contrary — research also suggests that the big take away from b-school is the same one that permeates board rooms. Ethics are important, but earnings-per-share is the guiding principle. Remember the ethics handbook distributed to each employee at Enron? The more compelling and well compensated message went something like this: We exist to make money. “Profits,” aka “shareholder value,” is the most important metric. We all benefit when the stock price goes up — and employees who make it happen will receive the most. Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead. EPS is the main meal. “Ethics” is desert.

Samuelson’s article approaches the education of business ethics in a focuses thought provoking way.  Nice article.  I, on the other hand, would love to share a good dose of reality into the minds of the students helping them connect the dots between choices and consequences.  Perhaps a semester of real world example where the students choose among a set of choices giving them an opportunity to see which one’s result in career destruction and arrest would have far more impact.  Maybe we should call it:  Career Destruction and Prison – the Ethics Course YOU Won’t Forget!

What do you think Judith?

Photo by Clay Bennett – see claybennett.com


Business Ethics education – moving beyond what’s illegal…how about focusing on choices and consequences!

July 19, 2012

For the past several days I’ve been noticing a series of articles about Business Ethics education and what should be taught.  Today I see Felix Salmon’s article: Business ethics need to move beyond what’s illegal where he says we should be more worried about unethical behavior in general rather than just teaching how to avoid criminal behavior.  I agree.  However, I would challenge Salmon in his belief that Business Ethics education even teaches about unethical criminal behavior.  From my experience speaking to a number of business schools as a business ethics speaker, I have found in polling students that the level of education related to business ethics centers around ethical theories rather than practical real life application – whether criminal or not.

Salmon shares the following: There are interesting ethical debates to be had as to where to draw the line: for instance, all those “free offers” which require you to hand over your credit-card details and then bill you regularly unless you cancel. They prey on cognitive limitations, I’d say, and are less ethical than companies which don’t do that. Should business-school professors tell their students that they should avoid implementing such schemes? I don’t know. But I do think that acting ethically, even if such actions are legal and don’t maximize profits, is something that many more business-school students should be encouraged to consider.

I find it interesting that Salmon’s example implies a certain judgment regarding the rightness or wrongness of certain actions.  For example, if I ask a group of people is it ethical to kill someone, the majority would say a resounding NO.  But, if your child were being attacked and in imminent life threatening danger, would it then be ethical to kill the perpetrator – I find the answer becomes a resounding YES.  So…ethics are based on the rightness or wrongness is certain situations.  Back to Salmon’s example.  Is it ethical to offer your free credit report with hidden language that you’ll be updated monthly automatically with a charge to your credit card?  Salmon seems to judge NO.  I say it is a function of the business you’re in.  If that is your business model and that of your competitor, then it would be challenging to find a lack of ethics in a model that works.  Sure…there are those who think such a model should be banned, but until it is…it is legal and ethical.  No different than selling spirits or cigarettes.  Both are bad for you and thereby potentially unethical to sell, but unethical – NO!

However, at the risk of getting off track from Salmon’s fine article…it would seem that the point of teaching more than just legal and illegal makes sense.  The question for me is – are we teaching legal and illegal and exposing the choices made have consequences that follow?  I don’t think so…at least not nearly enough.  Theories are fine, but practical application teaching is far more effective in my opinion.  For example, I was consulting with a fellow just a week ago who was convicted of conspiracy.  Here’s the simple truth, if a company (or people within the company) conduct unethical illegal acts and you don’t report it then you may be found guilty of conspiracy.  Seems to me to be more of a deterrent to unethical behavior if folks know the dire consequences that follow unethical and illegal behavior.

What are your thoughts?


BUSINESS ETHICS: From a Corporate Secretary’s perspective! An interesting new book by Nan DeMars

August 18, 2011

FEATURED IN CANADIAN BUSINESS – NEW BOOK NEWS RELEASE reprinted from CANADIAN BUSINESS

One December day in 2008, Eleanor Squillari’s boss was arrested for securities fraud. The next day, the secretary arrived at her office to find it a scene of utter chaos: phones ringing, faxes spewing paper, FBI agents strutting around and a couple of dozen red-faced investors in the lobby demanding blood, or at least an explanation.

Squillari didn’t know what to tell the clients of the man for whom she’d worked for 25 years. She also didn’t know if she’d been unintentionally complicit. Even if she’d never once felt that something might have been amiss, in clients’ eyes she was at least guilty by association. So the following year, when the secretary decided to go public in a Vanity Fair article with her account of a quarter-century spent working for Bernie Madoff, it was hard to begrudge her a voice. As one G-man told her, “You need to take care of yourself, because nobody else will.”

No doubt Nan DeMars feels some empathy for Squillari. DeMars spent 20 years as a corporate secretary in Minnesota, and through her leadership role with the International Association of Administrative Professionals, she was responsible for authoring her profession’s first ever code of ethics. Now president of her own consulting firm, DeMars has become a popular media expert on the subject of ethics in the workplace. In You’ve Got to Be Kidding: How to Keep Your Job without Losing Your Integrity (Wiley), DeMars offers a comprehensive guide to navigating the ethical traps found in every workplace.

Of course, the subject of business ethics now sees much more attention than it once did (not least from Saint Mary’s prof Chris MacDonald, whose thoughtful blog on business ethics is published on canadianbusiness.com). DeMars observes that in the U.S. alone more than 300 colleges and universities now offer ethics curricula, whereas a decade ago it was fewer than 10. She recognizes that, unlike her first book on this topic in 1998, this one arrives in “a ‘we get it’ climate.” But however widely businesses have adopted codes of ethics to govern behaviour in the workplace, the ideal “ethical office” that DeMars describes isn’t attainable through the enforcement of rules. Not only is it impossible to anticipate in such a code every possible variable or potential dilemma, but always “it is possible to satisfy the letter of the law while still committing an act that most reasonable people would consider unethical or immoral.” Even if accepting a gift from a potential client isn’t explicitly proscribed, does that make it right?

Before this starts to sound like the annual lecture from management—perhaps you’re one of those corporate employees forced to sleepwalk through an intranet quiz once in a while to prove to your higher-ups that you’re familiar with the company’s code of conduct—consider DeMars’s argument for the value of the ethical office from a personal standpoint: “In order to live happily and at peace with ourselves, we have to live in ways that are congruent with our morals,” she argues. (Morals, as DeMars defines them, are the principles of a person’s character, while ethics is a system of moral values, the set of rules or expectations publicly accepted by a group.) “For us to work happily and productively, we need to share common ethical standards with our coworkers,” she writes. If the ethics in your office are at odds with your personal values, it invariably makes you unhappy. “And the larger the gap, the greater your level of stress.” That’s why the onus for ethical behaviour lies so firmly with each employee. A code of conduct is just ink on paper; it’s how the group brings it to life that ultimately matters.

So what to do about it? The bulk of You’ve Got to Be Kidding is a subject-by-subject manual for dealing with the most common office dilemmas. There are chapters on workplace gossip, on the vagaries of loyalty, on expense accounts, whistleblowing, vendor relationships and even pornography. But as DeMars says, a written set of rules will never anticipate every situation—and not every ethical quandary will offer choices in black and white. So the most valuable tool DeMars provides is what she calls an “Ethical Priority Compass.”

The tool’s goal is to provide “a hierarchical approach to resolving ethical dilemmas,” and it’s an incredibly simple one: First, take care of yourself. In every situation that arises, DeMars writes, “you must protect your professional reputation and your financial security—and do so in a way that is aligned with your personal morals and values.” Second, take care of your company and its customers. Worry about your supervisors last.

It’s the relationship with our supervisors that often leads us onto the most treacherous terrain, and DeMars devotes plenty of words to the subject. By her reckoning, your boss is the first person you should go to if confronted with an ethical dilemma—even if your boss is the source of the problem. You should be careful not to “immediately leap to the conclusion that he or she is the enemy.” It’s always worth making the effort to preserve that relationship, even if you’re uncomfortable with some of the person’s behaviour. Despite its unequal power dynamic, the relationship, DeMars argues, can be more elastic than is apparent, and she offers a 20-step method to ethically manage up. “You have more power than you think you do to affect your boss’s ethical (or unethical) decisions,” she says.

Those decisions may draw you in actively—“Do me a favour and shred everything in that cabinet, would you?”—or passively, in the expectation that you’ll turn a blind eye if you see something amiss. DeMars’s ethical priority compass will help you audit your decisions about how to respond to situations that seem ethically questionable, whether with a co-worker or a manager. If your boss is a Madoff—or just misguided—no code of conduct will steer you right except your own.


Featured New Book, “Accounting Ethics… and the Near Collapse of the World’s Financial System,” – a Business Ethics book that is worth a read!

August 17, 2011

This new book manifests the importance of accounting ethics by looking at the role that some ethical failures played in recent scandals, particularly AIG’s role in bringing the world’s financial system to the brink of collapse. After establishing the vital importance of ethical accounting, the book goes on to give a thorough analysis of what ethical behavior means for accountants and shows them what can be done to embody that ideal.

Quote startPakaluk and Cheffers… have tackled every major ethics issue currently facing the accounting profession.Quote end

Sutton, Mass. (PRWEB) August 17, 2011

The fruit of a collaboration between a Harvard PhD and ethics specialist (Pakaluk) and a Harvard MBA and forensic accountant (Cheffers), “Accounting Ethics” is an entirely new treatment of the subject that reads like a detective story while imparting a deep understanding of professional ethics for accountants.

The book’s treatment of the role of accounting ethics failures in the financial crisis connects the dots between AIG’s first massive accounting ethics failures, dating back over 20 years, and AIG’s more recent accounting irregularities that—as Ben Bernanke and Timothy Geithner have stated—nearly brought the world’s financial system to its knees.

Pakaluk and Cheffers also examine accounting ethics issues associated with Enron, Worldcom, Lehman Brothers and more, paying particular attention to clashes between rules and principles, conflicting interests and the challenges facing corporate accountants, Big Four auditors (Ernst & Young, KPMG, PWC and Deloitte), the FASB, AICPA, and related regulatory bodies.

While not a “gotcha” book designed to point fingers, Pakaluk and Cheffers, in their third book on accounting ethics, have tackled every major ethics issue currently facing the accounting profession, including well established traditions such as independence, codifications of conduct, professional foundations and whether or not accounting ethics can be taught. The authors support their insistence on the importance of accounting ethics using historical, philosophical, and sociological research.

This book’s attractive presentation of deep philosophical thought– that will enlighten even the most experienced accountant—using a fast moving who-dun-it style, will keep practicing professionals and students alike glued to the pages.

“If you never could have imagined a textbook in accounting that through large sections reads like a detective novel, well, one has been created, courtesy of the once unimaginable professional and ethical breakdowns in a slew of major companies: Enron, AIG, and others. … The clear expositions and well-argued principles set forth in this suspenseful book give intellectual grounding to a profession that utterly relies on courageous honesty and integrity, as exemplified in this book’s opening pages. That is what accounting brings to the market, and without it the practice is empty of value.”

—Michael Novak, Ambassador, Templeton Prize winner and author of The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism

“If you are familiar with Understanding Accounting Ethics, either the second edition or the original, also written by Pakaluk and Cheffers, you will immediately see the same passion for ethics evident in their latest book. Smart accountants will make it an essential part of their personal ‘business bookshelf,’ while the smartest accountants will actually take it off the shelf and read its chapters periodically.”

—Jonathan Hamilton, Accounting News Report

About the Authors:

Michael Pakaluk, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy and currently is the Chairman of the philosophy department at Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida. He has written extensively on ancient ethics and morality. Dr. Pakaluk’s expertise in accounting ethics, in conjunction with his position as Senior Research Analyst and Public Policy Consultant with the Ives Group, Inc., led to an invitation to present a seminar on accounting professionalism and IFRS convergence for the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in 2009.

Mark Cheffers, C.P.A., A.B.V., is the Founder and CEO of Ives Group, Inc., an independent research provider focused on developing web based due diligence and market intelligence tools. Its subscribers include many of the most prestigious professional service firms, educational institutions and regulatory bodies in the world. A former PWC auditor, forensic accountant and ligation consultant, Cheffers has delivered numerous seminars and written extensively on accounting malpractice, ethics, and financial reporting matters.

Product Information:

Accounting Ethics…And the Near Collapse of the World’s Financial System
By: Michael Pakaluk and Mark Cheffers
ISBN: 9780976528036, 424 pages, $75.00

Order Through the Allen David Press Website:

On Amazon:

Or contact sales representative, Mr. Thomas Hardy:
Tom(dot)Hardy(at)AllenDavidPress(dot)com


All things Business Ethics – Bidhan “Bobby” Parmar wins Best Dissertation Award 2011! Congratulations!

August 11, 2011

University of Virginia Darden School of Business Professor Bidhan “Bobby” Parmar has been selected as the winner of the Society for Business Ethics Best Dissertation Award 2011. His dissertation is entitled, “The Role of Ethics, Sensemaking and Discourse in Enacting Authority Relationships.”

Bobby ParmarAccording to the Society’s website, the purpose of the award is to recognize the dissertation that most clearly demonstrates the potential to contribute to substantial advances in business ethics research and practice.

Parmar’s dissertation, unlike traditional work in business ethics, examines ambiguity, language and social relationships as critical aspects of moral decision-making in organizations. His work demonstrates how an individual’s organizational role can shape his or her perception of and subsequent handling of ethical issues. Because organizations have a division of labor to produce goods and services, it can be very difficult to place responsibility for ethics failures. One key practical implication is to improve the kind of ethics training that managers and leaders receive. Instead of relying only on improving individual decision frameworks, Parmar’s work suggests that companies need to treat ethics failures like other system failures and create mechanisms to prevent those failures – by making clear how internal and external stakeholders will attribute responsibility for ethics failures.

Parmar will receive a plaque and a cash prize at the Society’s awards luncheon on 13 August in San Antonio, Texas, during the organization’s annual meeting.

Parmar is an Assistant Professor in Business Administration, having recently finished his MBA/PhD at Darden. His research interests focus on how managers make decisions and collaborate in uncertain and ambiguous environments to create value for stakeholders. His recent research examines the impact of authority on moral decision making in organizations. Parmar’s work has been published in Organization Science and the Journal of Business Ethics.

He teaches courses in Darden’s MBA programs, including First Year “Ethics,” “Leading Organizations” and a second year elective called “Collaboration.” Parmar is a fellow of the Business Roundtable Institute for Corporate Ethics, an organization housed at Darden, which brings together leaders from business and academia to fulfill its mission of embedding ethics into the everyday business decision-making and practice of organizations. He is also a fellow of Darden’s ethics research center, the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics at Darden. Prior to teaching at Darden, Parmar taught at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce.


Business Ethics Question: Should Company’s track employees Social Media activity?

August 9, 2011

BUSINESS ETHICS 101 – Should an employer attempt to protect his/her company’s assets and/or reputation by monitoring their employees social networking practices?

With so much riding on corporate ethics, should an entrepreneur try to protect his or her company’s reputation from employees’ loose, careless and sometimes dangerous social networking practices?

The following news release from Kansas State University asks some challenging questions:

Monday, Aug. 1, 2011

GAME CHANGER: BUSINESS ETHICS EXPERT WEIGHS IN ON MONITORING ONLINE IDENTITY OF PROSPECTIVE, CURRENT EMPLOYEES

MANHATTAN — Should businesses monitor the social media activities of their employees? A Kansas State University business ethics expert says the practice can be a double-edge sword.

Such monitoring is available through companies like Social Intelligence, which provides businesses with archived data from social media sites for use in preventing online damage to their reputations. But the data also can be used to screen potential employees and to monitor the social media activities of current employees.

“I understand the need of a business to protect its reputation,” said Diane Swanson, professor of management and chair of a business ethics education initiative. “But in terms of employees’ rights, the practice coexists uneasily with the expectation of personal privacy.”

Use of Social Intelligence could create considerable changes in employee communication, Swanson said. Potentially, the practice could create a climate of fear and distrust. These effects could be detrimental to morale and hurt productivity.

To prevent such a situation, Swanson recommends that companies craft policies and provide expectations of employee’s online conduct. This would shift the emphasis from monitoring to creating shared understanding between employers and employees. Further steps would also be necessary.

“A company should provide full disclosure of its monitoring practices and the consequences employees would face if they violated stated policy and hurt the business’ reputation,” Swanson said.

Without such full disclosure, an individual employee would be operating without the benefit of knowing important rules of conduct. This could be construed as unfair, especially given the relative power of large organizations compared to that of lone individuals, Swanson said.

The approach is also necessary because of the lack of laws regarding companies like Social Intelligence. Data collected by Social Intelligence follows the Fair Credit Reporting Act. It also does not include basic demographic information. But the monitoring and screening can provide any message or tweet deemed worthy of mention. The approach could prove negative for businesses if valued employees are ousted or alienated in the process, Swanson said.

“If a business is worried about this, the best way to handle it proactively is for the expectations to be laid down when employees are hired,” Swanson said. “This should be followed by training sessions and discussions related to performance evaluations. That way, management can strive to head off problems and be part of the solution instead of being viewed as heavy-handed.”

Swanson suggests the loss of personal privacy in social media activities is emblematic of larger societal trends.

“We are getting used to what could be considered violations of our privacy from what has been happening with government practices and now on the corporate side,” Swanson said. “Such practices cause tension in a society where citizens traditionally value individualism and look to the law to protect the expectation of privacy.”

Because online surveillance appears to be proliferating, Swanson believes that ultimately public policy and the courts will establish more definitive guidelines.

“The problem is that technology outpaces the ability of the law and public policy to keep up,” she said.

Meanwhile caution should be exercised.

“The more people are aware of this practice, the more they will be empowered to make smart decisions,” Swanson said.

SO WHAT DO YOU THINK?  Monitor Social Media activity is ethical or unethical?

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!