How do you make moral decisions if you have no frame of reference other than your own opinion? The tale of Silk Road, part 2.

August 29, 2017, 7:24 am

Above organs were reportedly available for purchase at Silk Road. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

While developing Silk Road, Mr. Ulbricht had a girlfriend, whom I won’t name. She knew he was raising and selling dope on the website and broke up when he would not end his involvement with the site.

(This is part 2 of a discussion of a book on Silk Road, American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road, written by Nick Bilton. Part 1 here.)

His girlfriend came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior later in the book, well after they broke up. (Based on a few ways that the description of her conversion and faith are described, I will make a wild guess the author of the book is not a believer).

At one point when they got back together for a while, his girlfriend persuaded him to attend worship at what appears to be a charismatic congregation that operated without a formal pastoral leadership structure.

After the worship she asked him what he thought about the morals that were discussed during the worship service.

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How do you make moral decisions if you have no frame of reference other than your own opinion? The tale of Silk Road, part 1

August 28, 2017, 7:02 am

On what basis do you decide which is the right path?   Image of “decisions” by Impact Hub is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

What is the relative moral ranking of people selling the following illegal products:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Weapons
  • Explosives
  • Lethal poisons
  • Harvested body parts

Early in the growth of the Silk Road, which was a hidden place on the internet where you could buy anything you wanted, and I mean aaaaanything imaginable, a debate emerged about the outer limit of products that would be allowed on the site.

The website was set up and run by Ross Ulbricht. Ultimately the feds busted him, his senior staff, and another couple hundred people who worked for Silk Road or sold stuff there.

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In case you hadn’t hear, those telephone calls claiming to be from the IRS demanding you immediately pay back taxes are a scam.

January 9, 2017, 10:34 am
Wouldn't it be nice if the  phone id actually was that accurate for every call? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the caller ID was actually that accurate for every call? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The most frequent scam in 2016 was the phone calls saying “This is the IRS and if you don’t pay your past due taxes this instant we will send someone to your house to arrest you right now.”

There are many things wrong with those calls.

As a starter, your first contact with the IRS will never be by phone. You will instead get a letter explaining what the IRS thinks you messed up.

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Journalist returns call to scammer who claimed to be from the IRS. Entertainment and laughter follows.

December 11, 2015, 9:12 am
Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Image courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

Most people hang up on robocalls from charities. If there is a real person, I ask them to go into their spiel and then set the phone down, letting the caller waste a minute or two of their time.

William P. Barrett, writing at New To Seattle, actually takes those calls. He then dissects the charity’s financial statements showing the minimal amount of charity taking place in some organizations.

To the repeat offenders he awards the title of “America’s Stupidest Charities.”

You probably know scammers have a new scheme of falsely claiming to be from the IRS. Their spiel is you’re just about to be arrested for failing to pay back taxes, the police are on the way to your home, but you can avoid going to jail today by settling up right now by sending money on a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.

Mr. Barrett called back to the number provided in a robocall. The person answering spoke poor English and sounded like he was calling from a boiler room.

He describes the call in his post, Scammers invoking the IRS inundate Seattle.

How did that conversation go? Quite entertainingly.

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Price cut on print books

February 4, 2015, 8:27 am

I’ve dropped the prices for the print copies of my books available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes store.

Here is what you can find on-line:

tragedy-cover

 Tragedy of Fraud – Insider Trading Edition

Story of Scott London’s fall from regional audit partner at KPMG to prison inmate because of his insider trading.

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Rationalization in action is frightening to see

January 27, 2015, 9:19 am

It is scary to see the power of rationalization. We humans can exert great effort to persuade ourself that wrong is right. With enough effort, we can persuasively argue that wrong is a positive good, the noble alternative.

It is unsettling to me when I see a client deeply believe that tax or accounting fraud is perfectly legitimate and I am the one who is in the wrong to suggest otherwise.  Worrisome is a watching a friend who believes that hurtful or destructive or nasty or evil behavior is Godly. Even more upsetting is when I catch my brain in full rationalization mode.

No, I’m not about to give any examples from clients, friends, or my life.

Unfortunately, we have a sad public example of rationalization racing at full power (sad pun intended).

(Cross-post from my other blog, Attestation Update.)

Some background on Lance Armstrong’s massive doping schemes

Many public sources report that Lance Armstrong has been found to use performance enhancing drugs for a very long time. He won seven consecutive Tour de France races.

According to Wikipedia, in 2012 he received a life-time world ban on all competitive events in all sports. His seven wins were revoked. He was found to have engaged in sophisticated doping schemes for many years.

In 2013, he admitted massive doping in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. He admitted using a long and specific list of banned substances and did so in each of the 7 Tour de France races.

Rationalization on display

Having set the background, let’s look at an article in The Guardian:  Lance Armstrong: I would probably cheat again in similar circumstances. Thanks to Professor Mike Shaub (twitter @mikeshaub) for pointing out the article.

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Is the cost of reducing fraud risk greater than the loss from a fraud incident?

October 15, 2014, 7:00 am

I recently had the opportunity to visit with Sam Antar, convicted felon and former CFO of Crazy Eddie.

During our interview, Mr. Antar suggested a reason why businesses don’t put enough effort into fraud prevention and detection. He said the cost of deterring fraud may be more expensive than the consequences of fraud. Before I refine the concept, look at some costs he mentioned:

  • In the corporate world, particularly companies that have grown for a while, there needs to be a lot of systems put in place to deter and mitigate fraud risk.
  • There needs to be an audit committee and they need to have resources available to them. Translate that to they have authority to hire legal and accounting experts. They need training personally. This is expensive.
  • The audit committee, consisting of skilled and knowledgeable people, must have a direct line of contact to the Board of Directors. That is expensive in terms of time.
  • The Board of Directors has to have a substantial amount of financial skills. That is expensive in terms of time and dollars for training and dollars for their access to expert resources.
  • At some point in the growth curve, there needs to be a robust, skilled internal audit department. That could get quite expensive, if you look at it only in terms of cash outflows.

I would add to that the time involved to implement quality controls, policies, and procedures. Those will take a lot of time for the finance & accounting team. In turn, those procedures will take time for operational staff to follow. All of that translates into more staff.

That can get costly fast.

What is the cost of a fraud incident

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