The problems with celebrity activism? Let’s start with unintended consequences.

July 13, 2015, 8:13 am

Amongst the long list of challenges getting in the way of actually helping the people you want to help, two repeatedly jump out at me.

The first challenge is to avoid unintended consequences. Because humans are so complicated and react to changes around them, you will frequently find that taking one action has some unexpected consequence that undercuts the help you’re trying to provide.

Another challenge is finding out what the people you are helping might actually know about the issue. The people living with the struggle every single day might have some insight that could have helped you while you were in your office figuring out how to fix their problem.

Check out the following article on 7/12 by Georgia Cole, Ben Radley, & Jean-Benoit Falisse writing at Quartz – What’s missing from celebrity activism in Africa? The people.

My summary:  the article explores the long list of problems with celebrities picking a cause, choosing the one single perfect solution that will fix everything, and advocating for their personal preference of policy action.
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What is your price?

April 27, 2013, 6:54 am

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

We know the price Mr. Scott London, former partner of KPMG,  is accused of setting for his integrity, honor, and reputation. The entrance price tag was several thousand dollars and added up to under $100,000.

Cumulative amount is allegedly $50,000 cash plus a watch with claimed value of $12,000 plus some concert tickets for his family, with asserted total around $70,000 or $90,000.

That total allegation isn’t the real measure of his price. The starting point was a few thousand dollars in the first deal. If the story outlined in the criminal indictment is correct, that is the point his integrity was sold.

An old joke about your price

There is an old joke with many variations that goes something like this:

Man to woman in a social setting: “would you sleep with me for a million dollars?”

She indicated she would be willing to do so.

Him: “How about for $20?”

With great indignation, she said “Of course not! What kind of woman do you think I am?”

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HSBC is too big to indict for flagrant money laundering, so they get a heavy speeding ticket

December 12, 2012, 12:16 pm

HSBC has agreed to pay a fine of $1.9B (yes, billion) for their systemic violations of U.S. money laundering laws.

Tim Fernholz at Quartz calculates that “HSBC’s record $1.9 billion money-laundering fine is the bank equivalent of a stiff speeding ticket”.

The $1.9B is about 2% of their net income last year. He calculates that for an average New Yorker, that would be about $1,105. In N.Y., that’s the fine if you were going more than 31 mph above the speed limit on a third-time offense with previous points on your record.

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“A bad quarter” versus “I could go to jail” – Is it time to indict a few bankers for money laundering?

December 7, 2012, 8:35 am

Reuters reports “Exclusive: HSBC might pay $1.8 billion money laundering fine – sources”.  That’s up from the $1.5B they previously announced as a reserve.

The article reports of leaks that a settlement could include a deferred prosecution agreement with the huge fine.  It then discusses the difficulty prosecutors are having in deciding whether to pursue the fine, which may or may not change behavior, or to actually prosecute a few individual bankers.

Update WSJ reports 12-10-12 an imminent settlement could be for $1.95B, including a deferred prosecution agreement and admission of violating the bank secrecy act.

The pattern in recent years has been to negotiate a fine and impose a deferred prosecution agreement. Yet there seems to be repeat behavior. 

As an aside, DealBook has sources that say Standard Chartered to Pay $330 Million to Settle Iran Money Transfer Claims.  That would be to the feds and is in addition to the $340M they already agreed to pay New York State. If correct, that would be $670M for laundering $250B of Iranian money.

Is there an option other than indicting the bank, which would likely be a death sentence?

Is it time for individual prosecutions?

After the explosions of big financial scandals at the turn-of-the-century, I very clearly noticed the change in how such cases are prosecuted.

Previously, the low-level people in a criminal scheme or financial scandal could trade testimony against their bosses in return for walking away without prosecution. Those have been the rules for decades.

Not anymore.

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Can we teach ethical behavior? One CPA changes his mind to ‘yes’

November 21, 2012, 7:21 am

The question – Can you teach ethics?

Jared Monger, writing at Numbermonger.com, talks about the ethics class he recently attended which changed his mind from no to yes.

A participant in the class explained why the answer could be ‘yes’:

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Standard Chartered Bank admits laundering $250B, will pay $340M fine. By the way, looks like a repeat violation.

September 22, 2012, 9:31 am

Standard Chartered signed a consent decree with the New York Department of Financial Services on September 21.  The signed agreement, which you can read here, acknowledges about $250 billion of wires in approximately 59,000 transactions were “repaired” with the intent of hiding whose money was involved. By way, there is a previous enforcement action that didn’t detect any problem, which tells me this is a repeat violation.

Current settlement

The Wall Street Journal report StanChart Formalizes Settlement in Iran Case describes the settlement. The line that caught my interest is:

Standard Chartered, which contested the allegations when they were filed last month, acknowledged misconduct tied to 59,000 transactions totaling about $250 billion.

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How many stern warnings does a bank get before it winds up in real trouble?

September 12, 2012, 7:33 am

Barclays settled with US regulators over its role in the fiasco about manipulating Libor. I’ve mentioned that mess in my other blog. As a part of that settlement, they signed a deferred prosecution agreement.

They were already on probation for an earlier deferred prosecution agreement for money laundering.

A Wall Street Journal article, Corporate Probation: Punishing or Punting? by Michael Rothfeld, gives the details (article behind paywall).

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