Monday, June 01, 2009

Gob. Smacked.

I learned a piece of news last night - and had it verified for me this morning - that utterly blows my mind. Because it seems to me - on the outside of it - to be such a monumentally stupid thing to do. One of those "how could you think that would be a good idea?" situations.

Someone I know (at best an acquaintance; this is not someone I would really consider a friend) who was in a position of considerable power (and a six-figure salary) has been fired...apparently for Financial Misappropriation.

(As my verifying source said: "He must have really sucked at it...they found him out in less than a year").

But anyway - if this person is guilty, his career is destroyed. Gone. No one would ever hire him again for a position even several rungs below the one he occupies now.

I guess greed makes people stupid? This guy had, as I said, a six-figure salary, use of a nice house, use of (I believe) a car provided for him, decision-making power - all the stuff that is kind of even beyond the American Dream, maybe the American Dream on steroids.

I couldn't see EVER doing something like that myself. (I make a mid-range five-figure salary - not huge, but certainly enough to be comfortable on, especially when you're kind of stingy like I am). Even totally beyond the "I am doing something that is wrong and I am not the kind of person who does things that are this wrong" discomfort, the fear of getting caught - and the consequences that would deservedly bring down on my head - would prevent me from even being tempted.

Maybe the being-able-to-foresee-consequences is just part of the makeup of people who DON'T do that kind of thing. I've mostly managed to avoid trouble (and have managed to avoid all BAD trouble) as an adult because of my highly honed ability to anticipate consequences. (On the flip side, it makes me more cautious about other stuff - part of the reason I am still single is that I am too good at seeing the "downsides" to trying to forge a relationship with this guy or that guy)

The way I look at it is this: I have a decent five-figure salary. I have tenure. I have a fair level of job security - probably greater than 90% of Americans. If I don't screw up, if I keep doing my job well, if I keep doing research, if I don't do something monumentally stupid like having an affair with a student or stealing money from my department, I keep my job as long as I want it.

In other words, I have a Golden Goose that will keep laying nice monthly eggs for me, as long as I do what I would be inclined to do anyway. And I have a very strong interest in keeping that "Goose" healthy and laying.

I could not see going, "Now, if I were to cut this goose open, I could get all the eggs at once" - which is what I figure this individual I'm referring to tried to do.

I wonder what his "exit strategy" was - was he going to hope that what he did (if he actually did it; I don't think that's been proven yet, so he's only "alleged" to have done what he did) would not be found out? Did he plan on resigning his job and going far, far away before people found out? What?

I'm trying to have some sympathy here. Maybe he needed the money for some reason other than greed - I don't know. Maybe someone in his family was very sick and needed experimental treatment that their insurance didn't cover. Maybe he had gambling debts. I don't know. I'm trying to be sympathetic even if I can't excuse what he did.

When I was in grad school, a woman who was one of the departmental secretaries was caught embezzling. She took the money because her daughter had cancer. Ultimately, the department fired her, but didn't press charges on the condition that she paid the money back (which she ultimately did). I suppose I can understand the desperation of having a sick child and not being able to pay for the treatment - but then again, as I said, this guy had a six-figure salary and primo health insurance for himself and his family.

I'll probably never know why he did it. But it makes me sad that he did.

Just another lesson that people who look like they have it made in the shade may really not. And another lesson to myself to be grateful for the Golden Goose that I do have, may it always be healthy for me.


Maggie May said...

I hear of a lot of this in my line of work. It is always amazing to me. Always. But desperate people do desperate things. This is one of life's constants, it would seem.

Even so, why anyone would risk killing the goose, to use your metaphor, is beyond my understanding. The short-sightedness of it all. It just boggles the mind of the fearful, law-abiding folks like us.

Maggie May said...

WV: honymos

Is this anything like "honey do's" or is a variation on the melon?

Dave E. said...

In 1991 I was hired as a print buyer by a national company that had sales of about $150 million per year, and growing. After learning their system, I was shocked at how easy it would be to set up fake vendors and embezzle money if I wanted to, their controls were a complete joke. I was not even tempted to do that and wrote a long and detailed memo to senior management on the deficiencies and dangers in their systems. That earned me nothing but suspicion. Four years later, we finally upgraded to a new system that addressed those issues, though that was not the reason for the upgrade. My experience has been that most management is willfully blind to this issue. In a properly designed system, embezzlement is so difficult to keep undiscovered that nobody in their right mind would even try it. "Right mind" being the key.