Two of the talks at the legal convention we are attending were particularly notable. One was by James Comey who is now Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Lockeed Martin Corporation. He is a the former Deputy Attorney General of the U.S. and former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He was responsible for prosecutions of the mob and for high profile white collar crime such as Enron and Martha Stewart. A very bright and entertaining speaker, he gave an informative talk about corporate ethical cultures. Having just finished a five week trial in which the testimony of senior management and especially the CEO of the defendant corporation was critical, I was very interested in what he had to say.
He pointed out corporations can have a wonderful set of policies about corporate conduct, but what they say in E-mail and how they actually run the corporation is "really how things are done around here." The policies may look good, but they stay on the shelf in actual practice. In my recent trial the policies were clear, well thought out and a ethical code of corporate conduct that were totally ignored when the issue involved profits over patient safety.
One point he made was the importance of E-mail in disclosing the real motives and thoughts about corporate conduct. He described E-mail as a "window into the mind." He pointed out that people say things in E-mail "they wouldn’t whisper to another on top of a mountain." He noted that in spite of FBI surveillance and every effort including wire taps they were never able to convict Carl Gambino who a known mob leader because he never owned a computer and only communicated to his mob in open areas verbally.
I was amused by his recounting how an Enron executive was convicted in spite of his defense that the details of a billion dollar matter had simply escaped his attention and was totally unaware of it. The prosecution, however, showed that on one his trips to survey the corporate operation he noted the company was using a major brand of coffee supplied for their employees. On his return he issued notice that a cheaper brand of coffee was to be purchased for employees use saving the company money to the disadvantage of the employees.
The other talk was by Stephen Lewis from Toronto, former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations and author of Race Against Time. He is the co-director of AIDS – Free World. A compelling and gripping description of the situation in Africa. His description of the out of control violence, the universal starvation and the rampant disease that prevails was heart sickening. His major point was almost all of this is preventable if the first world countries lived up to their commitments and world banking did the same.
I was struck by the fact we spend some $12 Billion a month on the Iraq invasion resulting in almost 4,000 American lives lost with 60,000 wounded and 700,000 Iraqis killed. The total cost, in dollars, we are told, will exceed $3 Trillion dollars. We are making war profiteering corporations rich with this war to the destruction of our economy as well as our national morality. In the meantime, in many areas of Africa the per capita income is less than $200 per year. Things like radios or computers are rare luxuries. Education doesn’t exist and disease kills by the hundreds of thousands. Orphans from the Death of parents by AIDS results in hundreds of thousands of orphans while war and savage gender violence predominate. The affluent nations talk, but do little to intervene.
The speaker was articulate, factually compelling and very passionate about our need to do something regarding the humanity of Africa.