STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS

Only 33, and already so adept at fudging conflict of interest for his own gain!

Well, you’d expect such a wunderkind on the faculty of Harvard Business School.

And it just goes to show the strides universities like Harvard – which has had you don’t wanna know from conflict of interest scandals! – have made in dealing with the problem. Really getting the message down to younger faculty.

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OTOH: This guy’s mom must be so proud! Look what sonny boy did! Still a pisher and he wrote something and the stock in that company just fell like a rock!

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All UD can say is: When your models at Harvard are COI giants like Andrei Shleifer and Joseph Biederman (search their names if you dare), the sky’s the limit.

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Oh, one more thing UD can say – and she always says it: Beware Beware Beware the B-School Boys.

And the winner is…

… Florida A&M!  They’ve already page-not-founded their securities fraud guy, an engineering professor who with his BFF, a finance professor at Florida State (How many times must UD tell you to Beware the B-School Boys?  See the category on this blog by that name.), was just found guilty of breaking a whole bunch of securities laws.

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UPDATE: The FSU guy remains on the faculty! That explains their not taking down his department page.

Way to pick ‘em, FSU. And hold ‘em.

“Anything we do to foster a culture of collaboration, rather than a culture of competition for scarce resources, is a way of training the elephant.”

Really?

Yet another b-school guy (read UD’s LONG category on this blog titled Beware the B-School Boys) wrings his hands about the criminogenic nature of some of America’s business schools… Which is to say that many MBA programs (in particular Wharton) seem to groom and then graduate real bad asses. What to do? What to do?

Like most of the other hand wringers, this guy’s introducing another whole new revolutionary approach to taking men in America’s most hyper-capitalist educational settings and turning them into women.

See the headline on the guy’s article?

CAN YOU TEACH BUSINESSMEN TO BE ETHICAL?

Forget businesswomen. Either they don’t exist, or if they exist they’re … ethical …? The whole article is men men men.

I guess businesswomen are ethical because they’re not businessmen.

So then the point would be to make businessmen businesswomen. No competitiveness here! We’re collaborative. And if you fuck up and act assertive in class…

MBA programs could ditch their heavy reliance on class participation when assigning grades – a standard that unfairly rewards extroverts and fosters competition among students to impress the professor. Instead, students could be asked to grade each other on their level of professionalism in class. A few of us at NYU-Stern have begun doing this, and we find that it discourages grandstanding and encourages students to build on each other’s comments.

Shh! Don’t say anything, Susie! Just keep your eye on Babsie and tell me whether you think she’s been abnegating herself…

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Ecoute. Collaboration in b-school means Raj Rajaratnam meets his co-conspirators there. B-school brings like-minded criminals together.

It’s embarrassing, but

The daily scandals that expose corruption and deception in business are not merely the doing of isolated crooks. They are the result of an amoral culture that we — business-school professors — helped foster.

Look at the dean of Columbia University’s business school, for goodness sake.

B-school people seem to think that if they keep producing worried rhetoric and new ethics institutes we’ll forget the nature of the amoral culture their schools reflect and many of their graduates inhabit.

The University of Western Ontario’s Highest-Profile Trustee…

… is Kevin O’Leary, a man who models b-school values so well that only Yeshiva University’s Ezra Merkin and Brown University’s Steven Cohen come close. We in the US can learn a lot from the capitalists up north.

Here’s Kev on the fact that “the 85 richest people in the world hold more wealth than the 3.5 billion poorest people.”

“It’s fantastic and this is a great thing because it inspires everybody, gets them motivation to look up to the one percent and say, ‘I want to become one of those people, I’m going to fight hard to get up to the top,’” he said. “This is fantastic news and of course I applaud it. What can be wrong with this?”

Atta boy, Kev! And bravo UWO. You really know how to pick ‘em.

“For Stanford, the bigger question today is whether it should revoke Martoma’s degree because he obviously lied his way into the school’s prestige MBA program.”

A cheater named Mathew Martoma
Lied his way to a Stanford diploma.
His scam MBA
Was so artful a play
It deserves to be hanging in MOMA.

“On Tuesday, a jury seated in the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan heard the testimony of Dr. Ross, one of two doctors that prosecutors say Mr. Martoma corrupted to engineer what the government has called the most lucrative insider trading scheme in American history.”

Corrupted? Corrupted? Corrupted by the big bad hedgie!

Young Sidney who lived at the foot of the hill
Whose fame every virgin with envy doth fill…

How far the delicate lassie has fallen – caught in the clutches of SAC.

Wow – scratch a hedgie and…

… you don’t know what you’re going to find.

… Mr. Martoma changed some of his first-year [Harvard] law school grades from B’s to A’s, including one in criminal law. He then sent the forged transcript to 23 judges when he applied for federal clerkships.

… After Harvard expelled him, Mr. Martoma, who at the time was known as Ajai Mathew Thomas, legally changed his name to Mathew Martoma in 2001, the same year he entered Stanford. It is not known what name Mr. Martoma used on his Stanford application.

Three years after graduating from Stanford [who knew Stanford had an eye for forgers?], Mr. Martoma landed a job as health care stock portfolio manager at SAC Capital. Jonathan Gasthalter, an SAC spokesman, has declined to comment about whether Mr. Cohen’s hedge fund was aware of the Harvard incident when it hired Mr. Martoma.

Why not be honest and say We not only knew about it; it made him a shoo-in

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Details, in case you want to give it a go.

In late 1998, Martoma, a graduate of Duke, altered the transcript of his first-year law school grades: He gave himself A’s in Civil Procedure, Contracts, and Criminal Law, rather than the B, B+, and B he’d earned, according to a Harvard Administrative Board report. He applied for clerkships with 23 judges using the altered transcripts. Weeks later, someone in the school’s registrar’s office discovered that the transcript had been changed. Martoma then withdrew the clerkship applications and told Harvard that the doctored transcripts had been sent out by mistake.

In a classic example of how the coverup is usually worse than the crime, Martoma appealed his dismissal from Harvard by arguing that he’d withdrawn the applications before he was caught and that the improper transcripts had been submitted accidentally. His efforts apparently involved creating a fake computer data forensics company, complete with a professional-looking marketing flyer, to corroborate the time stamps of his e-mails.

All sorts of unsettling news involving UD’s university this morning.

As we speak, a shooter (or shooters) at the Washington Navy Yard has killed or wounded several people, some of whom have been transported to GW Hospital. UD doesn’t teach today, but she can imagine the scene outside the hospital, with police, reporters, families, onlookers, etc. And this is already an extremely busy Washington intersection, with the metro, law offices, and GW medical school buildings immediately adjacent.

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UD hadn’t planned on posting about the firing of GW’s business school dean, but the story has gone from strange to bizarre to bizzzzzaro in the last few days, so here goes.

Handsome young hotshot Douglas Guthrie is hired away from NYU three years back to lead GW’s way-ambitious b-school (it not long ago got an amazing new building, plus a big ol’ budget…). Guthrie overspends his budget rather shockingly and is for this reason (or so the official story goes) fired.

It’s very bad news for the b-school, which has lately seen lots of administrative turnover and disappointing national rankings.

It gradually becomes apparent that Guthrie has a story to tell, and he has really spilled it to The Hatchet, the school newspaper. The suggestion in the story (partly coming from Guthrie, partly from others) is that the overspend was a cover story, the real deal being charges against Guthrie of “making illegal financial deals in China and having sex with colleagues.” These charges apparently came from the chair of the Faculty Senate executive committee, and Guthrie seems to be claiming that it was his lawyer’s letter to the university, discussing the possibility of a slander lawsuit, that really prompted his firing.

As to whether Guthrie might have tried to profit personally from his overseas university work … who knows? There’s plenty of precedent for it, with Harvard’s Andrei Shleifer (his adventures in Russia cost the university $31 million in penalties) the most notorious case. But the explosive charge in the GW newspaper piece is this one: The executive committee chair apparently also charged that

Guthrie had been sharing profits with [university provost Steven] Lerman and other top administrators, according to [another faculty member’s] complaint.

Yikes.

‘WHARTON PRODUCING ITS SHARE OF CRIMINALS ON WALL STREET’…

… went the headline way back in 1988, an earlier insider trading season. Having covered oodles of more recently imprisoned Wharton grads on this blog, my question is: Is the Wharton school criminogenic? Does it take nice boys (they’re all boys) and make them naughty? Or is it (as UD suspects) simply notorious for being the go-to place to learn how to be a financial crook and to make, er, connections with other people along these lines? Just put WHARTON in my search engine for a sample of these amazing high-flyers! I’m thinking that if you’re not planning to defraud at the very least a thousand investors, you’re not going to bother applying to Wharton. I’m thinking that if you’re not planning to steal in the tens of millions you’re not going to bother with the application fee.

So – and I know – who’s counting? – but so the latest Wharton guy is Courtney Dupree, also a product of scandal-city University of North Carolina. Once a mover/shaker in his “super-chic loft on Broad Street in Manhattan’s financial district,” he’s now off to seven years in prison for an $18 million bank fraud. And The Legend of Wharton lives on.

“Some Twitter users also reported that the meteor crashed somewhere near the Delaware-Maryland border…”

Are you kidding me? That would be amazing.

Why should Chelyabinsk Oblast get all the fun.

Beware the B-School Boys: The Harvard Casebook

One of UD‘s most commonly used categories on this blog is Beware the B-School Boys, in which UD attempts to help you see econ and MBA grads coming. (For details, click on the category’s name at the end of this post.) Two recent instructive cases from Harvard are worth mentioning.

Florian Homm played a little basketball for Harvard when he was an undergrad there, but his big thing was business: econ undergrad; MBA grad. He seems always to have been a cultured crook, an intellectual Bernard Madoff who, after years of hiding from the law, has lately been captured. Bernie crafted crude Ponzis; Florian engaged in portfolio pumping, which takes a finer Italian hand.

As with nutty professor Paul Frampton, the New York Times writer covering Florian’s demise cannot help getting giggly:

Given Mr. Homm’s flair for drama, it was perhaps fitting that he was arrested at the Uffizi Gallery, famous for an exquisite collection that includes works by Michelangelo, Rubens, Tintoretto and Rembrandt…

But it is unclear why Mr. Homm, who is 201 centimeters, or 6 feet 7 inches, tall and something of a celebrity in Germany, would appear in a place where there are many German tourists and he was likely to be recognized.

The seduction of beauty! From Sozzo Tegliacci to the SEC in one shattering second!

But seriously, folks; there’s something about a Harvard and high-style Euro charisma that makes investors unwary… And UD‘s a little worried that you’ll still fall for Florian in his latest iteration:

“The pursuit of happiness is not correlated with the pursuit of money,” [Homm said in a recent interview]… Mr. Homm insisted he was no longer the same person who once owned a stake in a Berlin brothel and lived in a $5 million residence on Majorca with a Russian table dancer. He said he prayed daily and was devoting his energy to charity work.

Okay so I want you to bring a smidgen of doubt to this self-description too, okay? Remember: Beware the B-School Boys.

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Though he seems never to have taken any classes with him, Florian claims to have known and even worked with Harvard’s notorious professor Michael Porter (Porter has said he does not remember Florian). Porter’s now-bankrupt Monitor Group failed to register as a lobbying outfit, did fellatial obeisance to Muammar Gaddafi, and so on and so on. If you didn’t put your money on Florian, maybe you’re tempted to put it on Porter, who remains a Harvard professor, and is not being chased by the SEC. Maybe you’re tempted to make him your business strategy consultant.

Beware!

[Porter’s] picture of CEO-superdeciders helps justify their huge compensation and the congratulatory press coverage, and yet [it] has little foundation in fact or logic. The strategy business … lasted so long in part because it supports and advances the pretensions of the C-suite.

Porter’s strategy theory is to CEOs what ancient religions were to tribal chieftains. The ceremonies are ultimately about the divine right of the rulers to rule — a kind of covert form of political theory. [One observer says] it is “like a ritual rain dance. It has no effect on the weather that follows, but those who engage in it think that it does.” … [Monitor was] doomed from the outset. Its embarrassing debacle marked the beginning of the end of the era of business metaphysics and the exposure of the most over-valued idea on the planet: sustainable competitive advantage.

Ginsburg’s Howl

Go where the need is greatest, they say, and wealthy businessman Douglas Ginsburg became convinced that yet another fitness center on Georgetown University’s campus – this one exclusively for the use of law students – would best serve humanity.

He gave millions of dollars toward its construction, and the whole deal was basically one of those love-fests – Georgetown was gonna plaster his picture on all the medicine balls or whatever; the school invited him to be on the Board of Visitors …

Sure, the university was aware that the SEC was somewhat, er, exercised about Ginsburg’s insider trading; but what would universities, from Brown to the University of Michigan, do without insider traders on the faculty and the board of trustees? All that money has to come from somewhere…

So, I mean, they took the money and they built the dealie, but when Ginsburg actually got hammered by the SEC, Georgetown decided, on reflection, that it would rather the face of an insider trader not be hung, like one more religious icon, from the Jesuit school’s walls.

This behavior shattered Ginsburg’s innocence. In his lawsuit, he writes:

“Ginsburg was invited to join the Georgetown Board of Visitors, welcomed to university functions, invited on university trips and generally embraced by the university, all with the goal of extracting ever more money from him.”

So! It had all been a nefarious tit for tat!

Now that the scales have fallen from Ginsburg’s eyes, he has sued, not only to get his money back, but for the repair of his idealism.

In the grand tradition of…

Henry Mintzberg [scroll down], the head of Tel Aviv University’s undergraduate business program has urged students not to major in business.

“Study of academic disciplines prepares students to think scientifically in these fields and form the foundation for advanced studies in graduate degree programs,” he said.

One student is outraged:

“Too bad he doesn’t have the integrity not to head a department he doesn’t believe in.”

Do you have to insist on majors in order to believe in your department? UD says no. UD says it shows integrity to care about the quality of undergraduate education your business… minors?… are getting and steer them toward actual academic fields. (Wee UD herself found that the hard-bitten vocationalism of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism was not enough to keep the mind alive, and quickly transferred to the English department.)

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Meanwhile, on the business ethics front, a New York judge has sentenced an insider trading to lecturing.

“To the extent possible, Mr. Fortuna can speak at his college and school of business and other institutions about his own situation and how [easy] it is for him and others to have committed this crime and the difficulties he’s encountered as a result,” [Sidney] Stein said yesterday as he imposed the sentence.

UD foresees an entire industry of MOOCs arising out of the synergy between large numbers of incarcerated insider traders and the need for business schools to deal with their profession’s, er, ethics problems. The general title for these MOOCs would be INSIDER GATING, with subtitles specific to each incarceree’s case.

“To think an ethics course is going to make ethical students is living in a dream world. I would be most suspicious of anybody who makes straight A’s in Ethics. If you want more ethical people, pass laws that can be enforced and enforce those laws. What keeps me on the straight and narrow is the idea of appearing before the Accountancy Board or even before FINRA, the SEC, or the Securties Board of my state to defend my license. That is my motivation to be ethical.”

This commenter, responding to a typically mushy article about teaching ethics in American business schools, says what UD always says about this subject. Either you scare b-school grads into good behavior, or forget it.

I mean, plenty of b-school grads are good people and will follow the law yadda yadda. Plenty aren’t good people, however, and they won’t follow the law. Are b-schools responsible for trying to change the not-good people into good people before they leave their business programs?

UD thinks it’s sweet of them to try, sweet of them to rig up be-good courses. But it don’t make no nevermind and you know it and I know it.

In line with this sensible commenter’s comment, UD, she reminds you, has proposed the following:

1. Drop all business ethics courses.

2.
Initiate a program of visiting lecturers drawn from convicted business fraudsters residing in local prisons.

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UD thanks David for the link.

“[A] state like Illinois with a high corruption rate makes a better investment than a state with a moderate corruption rate… The reason is that the return for your bribe is more certain in a highly corrupt environment.”

A recent study by a group of business school professors has intriguing implications for MBA programs throughout Illinois.

Because traditions and lines of bribery tend to be both clear and reliable in fully corrupt countries, it’s far easier to do business in them than in only partially corrupt countries.

The authors of the study see no reason why this principle couldn’t apply to American cities and states; and, a Chicago Tribune columnist points out, “Chicago just last year was deemed the nation’s most corrupt city and Illinois the third-most corrupt state in a well-publicized analysis.”

Rather than force their MBA students to take absurd ethics courses (UD‘s critique of these courses may be enjoyed by clicking on the category Beware the B-School Boys), business schools throughout Illinois might instead exploit their state’s curious advantage by offering modules on the tradition and fine-tuning of graft.

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