Sep 26

Did You Know That Your Job Applicants and Employees May Be “Consumers” Under FCRA?


Do you hire or fire based on criminal background checks, credit reports or other “consumer” reports? We usually think about the Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) regarding consumer credit, but did you know that your employees and job applicants can be considered consumers under new regulations for FCRA that went into effect on September 21st?

Ostensibly, the new regulations are meant to require credit reporting agencies to provide free security freezes to protect against identity thieves. However, you must now provide applicants and employees with a Summary of Consumer Rights notice that includes information on the availability of a security freeze if you are using these third-party reports as part of your personnel practices. Don’t forget that you must give a standalone document to the applicant or employee disclosing your intent to obtain the report for employment purposes, and secure the applicant’s or employee’s signed authorization BEFORE requesting the report.

The rules can be complicated so checkout CFPB’s press release and related links here At the very least, start using CFPB’s revised model Summary of Consumer Rights available here.

Nov 30

What is the Ethical Conversation du Jour? Sexual Harassment!


As a speaker on business ethics, I am often asked why successful executives risk so much by taking unethical actions.  The daily exposure of new sexual harassment offenders provides ample evidence of the consequences of bad behavior, which is almost always exposed. Sexual harassment is an ethics issue, and most companies address sexual harassment within the context of their company’s code of ethics.

We all know that sexual harassment is not a new phenomenon.  It seems that Harvey Weinstein’s abrasive and arrogant stance in the wake of the allegations against him awoke women’s “we’ve had enough, and we are not going to take it anymore” movement.  According to CBS News, as of October 24th, the #MeToo social media movement reached 85 countries and over 1.7 million tweets on Twitter.  And, Facebook alone had more than 12 million posts by 4.6 million users in one 24-hour period.  The conversation grows daily with new allegations!

Stories of sexual misconduct will be in the news for some time with Matt Lauer and Garrison Keilor being the latest casualties.  As business leaders, we have the responsibility to our fellow employees, shareholders, and families to search for clues of sexual misconduct before it is too late for those involved.

Some offenders such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and others are accused of sexual assault, a criminal offense. Bill Cosby recently stood trial for sexual assault that resulted in a deadlocked jury.  Criminal charges are serious, and it is easy to see where sexual harassment could lead to sexual assault in today’s legal environment.

Sexual Misconduct as a Business Ethics Issue

Companies can limit their legal liability, if allegations arise, by assuring their harassment policies are up-to-date and enforced, having mandatory sexual harassment training for at least all managers, and taking harassment complaints seriously.  Management should facilitate a corporate culture where there is no toleration for inappropriate behavior, and all employees are appreciated and not objectified.  Ignoring complaints is no longer an option given the attention that sexual misconduct is receiving in the news.

Sexual harassment is a serious business ethics issue because the consequences of the harassment lead to a hostile work environment and are demeaning to its victims, typically a work associate of the offender.  Companies are not only embarrassed by the recent revelations, but they have been paying large sums to settle with victims.

A new Economist/YouGov survey of November 28, 2017, finds that 80% of Americans consider sexual harassment to be a serious or somewhat serious problem.  However, only 36% of the survey respondents say it is a serious or somewhat serious issue where they have worked.  Are American companies doing a better job of creating a safe working environment than those in industries getting the most attention now, primarily entertainment, media, and politics?  Perhaps, but 36% is still too high, and zero is probably not attainable.

Clues for Spotting Sexual Harassers

Ethics are an enigma to most people. I developed a set of E.T.H.I.C.S. Tools that provide clues on whether someone is in danger of slipping into unethical behavior such as sexual misconduct.

A good question to ask is, why would smart people, who know better, sexually harass another?  To answer that question, let’s examine three of my E.T.H.I.C.S. Tools.

 E = Exaggerated Ego

The ego’s feedback from its environment can have a significant impact on its beliefs.  For example, the “Hollywood casting couch” is a long-running euphemism for the acceptability of sexual harassment in the film industry.  Harvey Weinstein’s bad behavior was an open secret for decades.  Yet, no one complained until recently. Is it any wonder then, why so many entertainment and media personalities are accused of sexual misconduct?  Social acceptability provides positive feedback to the ego that its false sense of prestige is accepted.

Since most of the well-publicised complaints have been coming from media, entertainment, and politics, it may be that these egos are more likely to be out-of-control than the ego of an executive.

I am amazed how many of the accused are shocked that they are publicly outed for their bad behavior.  The accusations are a direct assault on their ego, and I have little doubt that they thought that either their sexual advances were welcome and consensual, or were acceptable.

S = Stinking Thinking 

Stinking thinking is that thinking which is dysfunctional to a rational connection to the moral universe, or excuses that one makes up to get its way.

The dysfunctional thinking of an exaggerated ego fills the head that it can do no wrong.  This belief is especially true for men in power positions, whether the person is a big fish in a big pond or a big fish in a little pond.  The big fish believe that they can use their power to take advantage of the little fish.  Beliefs are just thoughts that we keep on thinking.  Most of us would agree that it is wrong to take advantage of another human just because we can, but not so for someone who believes that others are there to serve him.

Given the film industry’s reputation for trading sex for jobs, a studio executive may think they are entitled to sexual favors in return for making a woman a star.  Or, the thinking may be that everyone is doing it, so why not me?  Harassers know their power so they may think that their harassment will be kept a secret since the victim would fear retribution from the harasser.

A business executive may think that they are too important to an organization for a company to terminate them for their sexual misconduct.  A former congressman once told me that Washington, D.C. has a culture of sexual promiscuity, so is it any surprise that a politician would think that his sexual advances are doing business as usual?

C = Consequences Not Considered

I am always amazed how very smart people, who would normally consider every risk in a business decision, fail to consider the consequences of their unethical actions. The consequences of sexual misconduct can be severe.

Matt Lauer reportedly had a contract with NBC News worth $25 million a year.  Bill O’Reilly earned $18.5 million a year with Fox News.  Not only is O’Reilly’s salary gone, but he reportedly paid out $32 million to one accuser, and Fox News paid out $13 million in settlements to other accusers over the years.  According to the New York Times, Harvey Weinstein has paid off accusers for decades.  Those payments are probably nothing compared to his loss in the value of Weinstein Company in the wake of the loss of its reputation and its, most likely, ability to continue in the film industry.

Sexual harassment settlements are costly in terms of money, but the loss of their career and relationships, and the public humiliation have a more enduring impact on an individual and their families.

If you are interested in learning more about my E.T.H.I.C.S. Tools for you and your company, please do not hesitate to contact me at 770-715-2095.

Oct 17

New Warden Is Finally Here

Prison Life

Monday, July 9th, 2012 |

The new warden started last week. He is a young white man that looks to be in his early 30’s.  This is quite a change, and not one I was expecting.  The Camp has an administrator which is the equivalent of an assistant warden.  The camp administrator reports to the warden at the Medium, since the Camp is a satellite of the Medium.

We don’t have much contact with the warden, but the warden’s policies and personalities affect our daily lives.  Accordingly, it is vitally important to have a warden that is reasonable, fair and competent.  I can’t say we have been that lucky at Butner.  This is a reason why inmates have been anxious for the new warden to arrive.

Wardens tend to work their way up the BOP system.  Consideration is also given for race and gender, as much as for experience and politics.  The Low recently got a female warden.  The complex warden is also a female.  My first warden was an older white male who retired.  I never saw the warden when I was at the Low, and wasn’t there long enough to care.

New wardens tend to bring in their cronies from the past.  But, this guy is so young that I am not sure he has anyone to bring in.  The rumor mill is that he is politically connected and is on the career fast track.

The new warden walked through one of the other units so I didn’t see him. He was accompanied by the assistant warden and a man of about 40 who was not identified. The warden was pleasant with the inmates and asked how they were doing. I doubt if anyone told the truth with the AW there.  We will know soon enough if this guy is worth anything.

Oct 16

Detainers Delay Inmate Releases

Prison Life

Sunday, July 8th, 2012 |

Many inmates have been in and out of jail over the course of their lives.  Some still have outstanding charges against them.  Detainers are requests from other jurisdictions to have the inmate sent to the requesting jurisdiction when the inmate is released.  Often, inmates don’t know they have detainers filed against them.  The case manager determines if there are outstanding detainers when they are processing the inmate’s file for release.

The case manager looks for unresolved cases and warrants in the federal criminal database.  A lot of this information is wrong or outdated.  Some inmates have been down so long that the other jurisdictions may have no information on the inmates.  Jurisdictions update their systems periodically.  Old information may not get carried over into their current system.

In other words, the case manager is looking at possible outstanding charges and warrants that the jurisdiction cannot confirm are valid or not.  The case manager will inform the inmate that they will have to prove the negative – that there are no outstanding detainers if there is any doubt in the case manager’s mind.  This is a virtual impossibility from the confines of prison!

Examples of Detainers Delaying Releases

One of my friends was scheduled for release next week but he was informed of a pending charge that he knew nothing about. How devastating for him! I don’t know if he can get it worked out in the next week or so.  They will hold him until he serves his full sentence, or until he can prove that the charge is bogus.  If the charge is real, then he will be transferred to the other jurisdiction.

I saw another guy that had his release delayed because of an outstanding charge from 1968!

This happened to another friend.  The case manager said he had a pending charge from Flint which was delaying his release. It took his sister two months to get the evidence from the city that there was no pending charge. The guy knew it was the same charge that he had already been convicted of by the Feds.

Oct 14

From Adversity to Authenticity

Family Impact , My Life Before Prison , My Spiritual Journey , Prison Life

[guestpost]This blog post is based on my “From Adversity to Authenticity” speech I gave this week. I discuss the circumstances of my criminal charges and my personal and spiritual transformation. I thought I would share it in the blog.[/guestpost]

My World is About to Change

Imagine being on a plane landing after a business trip. Like everyone else you turn on your phone and notice numerous missed calls, and then your phone rings almost instantly.  It’s your corporate attorney. He tells you he needs you to shut up for minute while he reads a press release to you.

The press release states that the State Attorney General just sued the company that you work for and all its officers, WHICH INCLUDES YOU, for alleged fraud.  The press release also states that there is a criminal investigation. A criminal investigation run by a U.S. Attorney’s office.

You know that your life will never be the same. There is a good chance that you will lose everything that you worked so hard for.  Now, imagine having to tell your wife all this.  Well, this happened to me in June 2007.

For Better or For Worse

My wife’s name is Christine. She picked me up from the airport to go to pre-arranged dinner with an overseas guest.  In the car, I told her about the lawsuit and the criminal investigation. I also told her that the whole ordeal will go on for 10 years – our lives will never be the same.

I said, “Honey, I love you too much to put you through all that is ahead. It will be agony. I will give you a divorce and everything we own. You can have it all.  And she replied, “For better or for worse”. Now, that is true love. At least I knew that I was doing something right. But, for better or worse sums what our lives were like for the next 10 plus years.

Case Background

To give you a little more background, I was a financial executive for a real estate company. One of our projects was a large mountain land development in North Carolina that failed – for a number of reasons.  However, the company and its officers were accused of defrauding lot investors and banks.  I was not involved in the sales and marketing, or in the lot financing – but I was an officer, and I was listed as the “Treasurer” on the North Carolina corporations’ registration filing. The state Attorney General simply picked up my name from the public registration.  The FBI and the US Attorney’s office assumed the criminal investigation.

This was a project that I had been trying to save, and we had a shot to save it. But, investors complained to the state authorities, and, now, there was no chance to save the project. The state shut us down. My time, and that of the other officers, needed to be spent defending ourselves.  Since there was national press on the case, my reputation was shot.  I was now unemployable and all I had had to go to paying for my defense.

The state case was problematic, but, the big problem was the federal criminal investigation.

Criminal Investigation

Criminal investigations drag on for years, and you feel helpless in the meantime.  The fact is a prosecutor can find some charge to stick you with, no matter how small, just to make an example of you. They will bleed you dry in the process.  Conspiracy and obstruction of justice are the two most popular charges that white-collar targets fall into.

I wasn’t being accused of directly defrauding anyone. Instead, the feds were accusing me of conspiracy. Their claim was, as an officer of the company, I should have known that there was fraud being committed and therefore I must have participated in the overall scheme.

The law doesn’t differentiate between someone who actively defrauded someone and someone who conspired with them. The penalties are the same. The feds only had to show that I “touched” the conspiracy in some way to charge me with the entire conspiracy.

To give you an idea of the gravity of this accusation: There were about 345 lot sales totaling $100 million. The feds said that each of those 345 lot sales were fraudulent, and each carries a separate criminal count with a five-year prison term.

Time to Decide

Two years into the investigation, and $250,000 in legal fees later, the feds told my attorney that I had to plead guilty to one count to avoid an indictment.  So, I had two options:

My first option was to go to trial.  I wanted to prove my innocence, but the odds didn’t look very good.  My attorney advised me that he would charge me an additional $1 million.  He wanted $350,000 now and I had to prove that I had the other $650,000.  If this wasn’t enough, he also thought that my chance of acquittal was less than 5%.  I was looking at 20 to 30 years in prison.  Given my health problems, I would probably never get out of prison alive. Even if I wanted to accept these odds, I couldn’t afford the legal fees.

My second option wasn’t very appealing either. But, I could cut my losses and stop the bleeding.  I could plead guilty to one count with a likely prison sentence of five years.  With good time and a little luck, I would serve 36 to 50 months.  Even though I believed in my innocence, pleading guilty would stop the stress of uncertainty and the bleeding of legal fees.

I decided to plead guilty to one count. It was the best business decision I ever made in my life.

Seven months later on March 1st, 2010, I stood in front of a federal judge with my whole family present to have my sentence imposed. The judge said, “Five years in prison!” It was the most humiliating day of life.

Time to Report to Prison

Two years after pleading guilty and four years after the initial complaint, I would report to the Low security prison in Butner, North Carolina.  It was surreal. I felt like Alice dropped down the rabbit hole. Strange land, strange people and strange customs, but this would be new my home.

Slammed into the Hole

About two weeks after entering prison, I was placed in solitary confinement for “protective custody”. This was the “hole”. It was a cellblock that looks much like this.

Inside the cell was dreary and sparse. Only a small window to the outside. I had no one on either side of me but could hear voices of other inmates down the hall.


The only interactions I had was with the morning guard to ask for an additional milk carton. Being very lonely and totally out of my element, I was mad at the world, at the justice system and at myself. I was literally going crazy and my mind couldn’t keep up with all the negative thoughts.

After about two weeks, my case manager came to see me and I blew up at him. I yelled all sorts of vile things at him. He looked at me like I was crazy, and I was.  He walked away. I knew I had to change. This was not me. How could I go on living and thinking the way I was?

I decided to reframe the experience and imagine myself in a silent retreat.  Shifting my thinking to finding meaning for my experience calmed me considerably.

Transferred to the Camp


Finally, I was transferred from the hole to the minimum-security prison camp at Butner. This is what I looked like after the 28 days in the hole. It looks like I could have a starring role in Breaking Bad. Pretty gruesome, huh?

Chris visited me shortly after my transfer. Don’t I look much better?

I would spend the following 36 months at the prison camp and I devoted myself to finding purpose in my journey.

How Does My Adversity Relate to Others

You just read my story of adversity. But, you have all probably had your tough times, right? And, you do look for meaning in your life, don’t you?  In many ways, my physical incarceration is a metaphor for those who have been imprisoned by circumstances in their lives, such as addiction of any kind, troubles at work or in a marriage. You name it.

In my search for meaning, I had to look at myself first.  It became clear to me that I was operating out of the ego. I had scared myself when I was in the hole, so ego was a good place to start.
Does anyone know what ego is? ………….how about, “Edge God Out”.   By this, I mean some believe we are separate from God.

Meaning of Ego

In our society, many of us define ourselves by what we have and what we do. Before going to prison, I defined myself by my job, the money I was making, my houses and cars, the size of my bank account, my relationships with others – who I knew and who knew me. These things were all important to me, and they seemed to give me a sense of purpose – mostly to perpetuate more of what I already had, but bigger and better. Notice that none of this included any real form of spirituality. I had done a pretty good job of edging God out of my life.

The problem was that I could no longer to lay claim to anything in my pre-prison life. It was all gone except my marriage and family.

I knew that I had a false sense of myself from my distorted ego.  Everything that was once true in my life was now a lie. I had a feeling that I needed to make a shift, and that shift had to be something greater than myself and it had to have spiritual meaning.  Most of us probably don’t know how to make a shift to a meaningful phase for our life, and I certainly didn’t. My legal problems forced me to kickstart my shift – a shift that never would have occurred unless I reached the abyss that I was now in.

Hero’s Journey

Not long after I went to the camp, I met a fellow camper who introduced me to Joseph Campbell’s book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. Campbell was a 20th century mythologist who found a hidden pattern in every story ever told ….. that includes our personal stories.

Campbell’s pattern is an archetype of the human condition.  Sometimes that human condition involves suffering. I found that life is not about avoiding suffering, life is about finding purpose in spite of, or through suffering.  It is in this human abyss that we find our true self, our treasure of life – that part of us that we never really knew existed.

Life doesn’t always work out how we planned it.  Campbell is telling us that we must be willing to change, to grow. As such, this growth is beneficial. Campbell also used to quote the Native American saying, “a snake must shed its skin or perish”.

On this spiritual path, doors will open for us that are closed for others. We will meet people and be introduced to experiences that are synchronistic. There are no accidents or coincidences in life, only synchronicity. This is what happened with me on my prison journey.

I was where I had to be. All my life events brought me to this point for a purpose.

Life Conspires With You, Not Against You

What I learned was that life conspires with you, not against you. Belief that life conspires against you paints you as a victim. Who wants to be a victim?  This was a difficult lesson for me. I wanted to blame everyone but myself. It was convenient and my ego would not allow me to blame myself.

The Course in Miracles teaches us that we either move towards fear, which is a feeling of loss, or towards God, which is love. God longs for us to move closer to him, and we do that by moving towards love.  All that happens, good or bad, provides valuable lessons, that if learned, advance our souls. We then become our true authentic selves as God intended.

But, being a victim keeps us in a state of fear, and I was in a constant state of fear.

In my case, life conspired for me to bring me to prison. It was in prison that I could transform my old-ego self to my new authentic-self. So, the irony is that I had to be incarcerated to find my freedom.

When you look at your problems in life, these are opportunities to grow. As I look back on the past 10 years, it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In reality, how often has it happened to you that the fear of the moment never materialized to the extent you thought it would?

Embrace all that happens to you. Embrace everyone you meet. They are all there for your growth. God bless you all.

Oct 06

Botched Inmate Releases

Prison Life

Saturday, July 7th, 2012 |

Bob got a shot because his released cellie left their cell a mess when he was departing to go home. It turns out that Bob was working when the cellie left and was unaware that the inconsiderate cellie left the cell in bad shape.  This happened on a day of an inspection – a stroke of bad luck.  This will result in one of many botched inmate releases that I have seen.

Bob was punished by having some privileges taken away from him, but the counselor said they would not take any halfway house time away from him.  Now, the case manager took three months of halfway house time away from him for “excessive shots”. He, in fact, had two shots, hardly excessive.

Bob got real aggressive to fight this decision. He has already written her up on a BP-8 and has contacted his attorney. In addition, he had friends and family bombard the regional office with phone calls, emails and letters. Bob said that you don’t need to take the grievance case all the way to DC. There is another route that may be faster and more effective.

Ethics Filing Against a Racist Case Manager

His attorney is filing an ethics complaint against the case manager.  The case manager can make a unilateral decision to take this halfway house time away. This is the same case manager that took another friend’s halfway house time away. Bob said that she (black) made some racially insensitive remarks against him (white) that will be part of the ethics charge.

We have noticed that this case manager has treated white inmates differently from black.  This is especially true to white, white-collar inmates. Bob’s attorney has also requested a meeting with the new warden. It would have been much easier on everyone for the camp administrator, or case manager, to just give the guy what he was due. The ethics complaint will be part of her permanent personnel file. She could be disciplined including being given unpaid leave.

So, in a nutshell, he has been having family complain to region, wrote her up on a BP-8, filed an ethics complaint, and is having the attorney meet with the new warden. All this for three months of halfway house!

Halfway House Time Changed When Transferred to the Camp

I can think of many more instances where the camp has taken good time or halfway house time away on a whim. For just one example, a guy came to the camp from the Low to spend some time with his brother before being released.  The Low had approved his going home in six months. He gets to the camp, and the camp said that they are changing it to 12 months.  The reason given is that six months was “too short”. The camp is always screwing around with guys’ halfway house time.

Oct 05

Butner’s Wonderful Food …. NOT!

Prison Life

Thursday, July 5th, 2012 |

I haven’t mentioned food in a while. I’m still eating every breakfast which, depending on the day, is cereal, oatmeal, cake (yes, even chocolate cake sometimes), pancakes, French toast and fruit.

Lunch is still iffy. We had hamburgers today (mostly on every Wednesday though).  Other lunches include chicken (at least 2x/week), tuna fish (again at least 2x/week in the evening or lunch), hot dogs, pizza (very soggy) and some other stuff that I would just as soon forget. I make it to three or four lunches in the dining hall per week.

I miss more dinners than anything else. They served some disgusting pork chops and a sweet potato tonight. The chop was greasy, fatty and paper thin. I took one bite and went back to the cell for a PBJ sandwich. I am getting about three servings of fruit a day, primarily bananas, grapefruit, oranges, apples, and prunes or figs that I buy in the commissary.

On another note, we had a very generous 4th of July meal yesterday. We got BBQ chicken, hamburgers, hotdogs, potato salad, watermelon. baked beans, lettuce and pasta (must have been left over from another meal). Rec also had the popcorn machine going for the holiday.

It’s very hot so my outside activities have been limited to my walk and weightlifting this morning.  I had a short 20-minute walk this afternoon. I’m going to try for another 45 – 60 minute walk at around 7 pm when it cools down.

Oct 04

More on Inmate Medical Care

Prison Life

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012 |

My friend whom we thought had a heart attack was back today.  He had a heart catheterization that showed nothing abnormal.  It could have been something like acid reflux or food poisoning.  He is going to continue with the complaint filed against medical.  It could have been much worse than it was but I’m glad he is ok.  This reminds me of other stories regarding inmate medical care.

FMC Inmate Medical Care

I heard a few more horror stories about guys in the FMC. I have a friend that spent a year in the FMC for cancer treatment. He had two roomies die while he was there, but neither died from cancer. I’m glad he is not my cellie!

One of the guys went to sick call every day for a week complaining that he wasn’t feeling good. Medical never let a doctor examine him, and did nothing to diagnose the problem. They just sent him back to his room. Finally, one day he looked terrible and couldn’t really function. My friend put him in a wheelchair and took him to ambulatory care. They finally examined him and sent him to an outside hospital.

My friend saw the nurse later in the day who matter-of-factly told him that his roomie had passed away earlier that afternoon. He knows they did an autopsy but doesn’t know the cause of death. My friend gave the guy’s family the story of BOP’s treatment neglect and told them that they probably had a reason for a lawsuit. Get this – BOP would not release his body to the family for 60 days!

Busted Gall Bladder

Another guy in our unit had his gall bladder burst a few weeks ago. He was taken to an outside hospital for emergency surgery. He was clearly in danger of dying. His family was not notified of his condition for a few days, and he was not allowed to talk to them. The BOP would not tell the family what hospital he was staying so there was no way they could visit him.

Not telling the family the name of the hospital is common because BOP fears the security risk (i.e., that he might escape). He was eventually released one evening and got to the unit at about 11 pm. He looked terrible. The next morning, they took him to the FMC to recuperate. He probably should have been transferred directly to FMC because his condition was so fragile. It is a miracle he is still with us!