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See? This is EXACTLY what UD’s been calling for all these years…

…PLUS it comes with a fantastic photograph!

UD has been saying for years that the burgeoning business of business ethics courses is a joke (details here), and that universities should trash them and just scare their MBA students with guest lecturer/jailbirds — high-flying CEOs still in, or just out of, prison because of their clever lucrative business practices.

Just as football is inherently violent, so a good amount of this country’s way of doing business is inherently illegal, or so achingly close to illegal that… you know…

So one college course with some clueless pontificating non-multi-millionaire at the head of the room isn’t going to change that, kiddies. It’s only going to make it worse.

But a first-rate speaker drawn from the teeming ranks of our MBA internees – someone like Enron’s Andrew Fastow, who smiles and holds up his CFO of the Year trophy in one hand, and his prisoner identification card in the other – is fucking unbeatable. I ain’t saying every jailbound junior in the room is going to be scared straight. I especially make no promises about anyone enrolled at Wharton, a feeder school for the federal pen. What I am saying is that the simple souls on their way to this country’s hedge funds and insider trading units will be, er, unresponsive to discursive thought but hyperreactive to some guy who used to be fuck-you rich and is now fending off rapes in FCI Otisville. Fastow looks the part – graying temples, wry older but wiser face, slim wiry illfed post-prisoner body… And he’s got the gig down — props, pithy cautionary tales that speak right to the cynicism to which his audience clings…

In a rare public lecture, former Enron Chief Financial Officer Andy Fastow held up his “CFO of the Year” award in one hand, and his federal prison ID card in the other.

“I got both of these for doing the exact same thing,” he said before a crowd of eager [University of New Mexico] business students.

Hear that? Hear that? EAGER. CROWD. Try getting that sort of turnout and enthusiasm for a UNM football game.

Plus Fastow’s funny.

“I think inviting me to talk about business ethics is a bit like inviting Kim Kardashian to talk about chastity,” he said.

Okay, the material’s pretty shitty. But a guy like that… with his personal history and his delivery.. the line’s gonna get a big laugh.

“I thought I was so smart; I thought I was a hero for bending the rules,” Fastow said. “It comes down to individual people making a decision — we always asked ‘is it allowed?’ not ‘is it the right thing to do?’ …

You can always find an attorney to get you the answer you want. You can always find an accountant to get you the answer you want,” Fastow said. “There’s only one gatekeeper — you.”

Unfortunately, you don’t have any sense of individuality; you’ve been trained from day one in your MBA course sequence to work in groups…

I mean, I don’t think, say, even one Fastow-or-better per semester can do much about a culture where people like insider trader extraordinaire Steve Cohen and big-time fraudster Zygi Wilf are university trustees (Wilf’s a trustee of a religious university!). I just think that if our universities are going to do anything about America’s corporate culture (it’s arguable that their MBA programs, at least, shouldn’t bother, because they hopelessly reflect that culture), they’d be much better off booking charismatic cons than pious professors.

Margaret Soltan, December 17, 2014 4:34AM
Posted in: beware the b-school boys

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5 Responses to “See? This is EXACTLY what UD’s been calling for all these years…”

  1. Jack/OH Says:

    I got out of sales years ago. I miss it. I had a talent for it. I made money for other people. I was urged to do even more to make money for other people. I’m glad I’m out.

    I suspect the sharp business practices of 2014 may not differ all that much from 1914. But, I sort of agree with Fastow that the legal environment has likely criminalized a lot of business practices. Ditto, the large amounts of capital needed to operate businesses means you’ll have a lot of bright, aggressive low-end guys eager to make their mark, but unable to do so because of the suffocating procedures you’ve put in place. (E. g., one major retailer required college-educated managers to subject applicants to questionnaires that were computer-scored as red, yellow, green. “Reds” were to be rejected for interviews, “yellows” were to be interviewed at the manager’s discretion, “greens” were required to be interviewed. You went to college to read a traffic light?)

    Today’s big-time business crooks, as Fastow and UD have said, simply buy exemptions from the rules that they brutally insist their salaried underlings follow.

  2. Sean O Says:

    UD ur such a cynic.
    Next u will tells us that corp mission statements are a waste of good paper.

  3. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Sean O: LOL.

  4. dmf Says:

    as long as business schools treat such ills as the results of behaviors beyond those they are teaching (and not the results of those very methods/frames that they are selling) none of this will make any difference.

  5. University Diaries » “We’re great football players, but we’re shit people.” Says:

    […] charismatic ex-cons drawn from the same crowd as their audience. Andy “Enron” Fastow is one example, but America’s prisons are packed with ciceronian […]

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