I found myself in shock last week when the New York Times, CNN, and other news organizations reported arrests for insider trading in what is being called the biggest ever hedge fund insider trading scheme.
One of those charged was a Senior Vice President at the corporation I worked for, and was in fact the leader of the division I worked for. He was one of just a handful of people who reported directly to the CEO. He had been a top leader in many organizations of the company. He had risen fast and was relatively young to reach the position he had. He was considered a contender for the top job.
The point is – by all measures he was wildly successful.
So what’s it like when a former big boss – a top leader in your company – is accused of being a crook?
I suspect that the tens of thousands of others who worked under this man at some point in their career and I feel the same way. We are shocked. We are outraged. We are angry. And that’s putting it mildly.
While this might not be quite the same as the feelings of the families of politicians who are accused of scandals, there are similarities. We were taken by surprise. We feel betrayed.
This is not supposed to happen in our family.
Now I’m not sure employees actually liked the man in question. He had a reputation as a hatchet man – the word on the street was that he would go into a new organization, streamline, cut budgets, and lay off employees – and that proved true in my organization. In fact, he may have been more feared than liked as a leader. But undoubtedly he had the authority, and the power.
I have no idea whether he truly committed a crime. The courts will decide. According to the FBI press release the allegations include that inside information was shared based on potential confidential deals between companies. And whether or not he committed a crime, it sure does look like he violated company policy.
My company was extremely careful whenever a deal with another company was discussed. Only people who truly had a need to be involved were included – this was usually a very small number of people. These people had to sign a special agreement – essentially it was a reminder (in case they forgot the business conduct guidelines) that they could discuss it with no one else – not others in the company, not their friends or family, not their boss, their spouse, their pastor, or their mother. You get the idea. No one.
What the heck was he thinking???
It wasn’t enough that he was head of a critical division at a top corporation? It wasn’t enough that he reported to the CEO of the company and was responsible for a multi-billion dollar business? Surely he didn’t need the money – at least not by any reasonable standard. Surely he didn’t need to worry about paying the mortgage, or the college bills, or buying a new car. I have long held the opinion that senior executives do not do what they do (at least not for very long) for the money.
So what was it then? Power? Excitement? The need to be part of a special club where he alone held a key piece of information? An overwhelming need to make the Forbes 400 Richest Americans list? A feeling that he was untouchable or invincible?
I think last Friday was a sad day for Corporate America. What do you think?