12 June 2006

History: An Ethical Dilemma

Played only a bit on Hollywood trying to take on the bonus, but it will be a long road to clear all the bonus. I played a bit of low stakes NLHE which was enjoyable, and I'm OK with just having fun a bit with poker right now. My businss situation is complicated for me right now. On the one hand, I have the opportunity to really redefine my business and what I do on a regular basis, the opportunity to create a life most people would kill for: work a bit, financially do well, spend chunks of time doing other things as well. On the flip side, I struggle mightily with acquiring new clients. I don't enjoy networking much, don't have any clients locally, don't have a regular demand process of speaking engagements or other lead generation methods. I'm also going to my only ongoing marketing client for a confidential meeting with the VP/GM. I have to decide whether to fire them or get fired by them.

I want to share a significant event in my life, really to share a situation that I hope reflects more about who I am. As always, I try to approach this site with candor first about myself. While at a Dow Jones 30 company, I was what was called a high-pot, meaning a high potential employee. I was very young and moving up rapidly, but I had what are termed staff jobs, meaning I was responsible for some broad topics or processes and not core parts of a business. I left the company to take what was a big step forward for me, Vice President of Marketing for a $1B company, very global firm. I was an officer in this joint venture and was part of the leadership team. Things were going along well there in my first year when the parent company put the business up for auction. I won't go into the details of this, but it was a surprise to everyone. I was an outsider, not from the industry nor from the company. The CEO was a former executive at the company I had worked at, but I wasn't too connected to him prior to joining. The staff was in two camps, one with the CEO was very small and included some outside consultants who seemed to work almost as a shadow staff. The long-time executives of the company were in the other camp, passive-aggressive, with their own code language, constantly doubting the CEO.

Early in the divestiture period, I was approached by the CEO with an offer that he had obtained from the parent company, an offer of a retention bonus. You've heard of these things I'm sure, where a company pays executives of either a bankrupt company or one being divested. It is meant to keep executives in place during a tough time. The bonus was sizable, more than three years salary, close to half a million dollars. To obtain this bonus, I would have to stay until the company was divested. I signed up.

I was in charge of the management presentations, meaning a big part of my job was preparing the presentations for prospective buyers. Soon after this had happened, a long-term president from the other camp was exited out. The CEO was paranoid that he would undermine the presentations, and I questioned this during an executive meeting. Soon after this, I was shuttled aside from my responsibilities during the divestiture. My questioning of the CEO's decision had put me on the outs with him. I was also responsible for market forecast data, which was used to paint the picture of the health of the company and where it was headed. I had a team of folks that worked this but I was intimately involved. I began receiving questions about some of the numbers I was presenting, asked basically to increase the forecast for numbers that would paint a more promising aftermarket growth story, which would create a more profitable long-term scenario. My conclusion during this time was that the CEO was trying to steer the company toward a certain type of buyer, one who would leave the management team intact vs. a competitor who would certain take the CEO out as he had no industry experience.

My situation was as follows: I had been pushed to the side, no longer part of management. I felt I had no opportunity to show my value to potential buyers. Worse yet, I felt I was being asked to fudge numbers, to fabricate them. I knew no one in the parent company as joint ventures are often off the radar of parent companies. So there is the hand history, and what is your play? I made what I felt was the right decision, I resigned from the company. I walked away from what at the time was a great deal of money (what today is a great deal of money). I'd like to say that then the results went well, that a better path was cleared and that everything turned out great. That would not be correct. Financially, we are significantly worse off than we were then and than we would have been certainly had we stayed and fought on. Who knows what would have happened from a career perspective. I haven't been black-balled or anything like this, and the employees at the company (some of which I've seen in the six+years since) have all been positive about me and my behavior at the time.

As Greg Raymer says, his goal is only to make the best decisions possible given the data that he had at the time. I wish I fully had his discipline, but I can honestly say that this decision still is there, still haunts me a bit. As many of you know, I have a strong faith that is a big part of my life as well. Several writers and ministers have created a success theology, that if you believe in God and take certain actions, then everything turns out great. You also may have heard about folks saying if a door closes, God opens another that is better. I think it's more complicated. I do believe when a door closes, God opens other doors. Better is a subjective term, and I think it is about a different path. I am hardly suffering in my life, still able to earn a comparitively good living, have healthy children and a wonderful wife. My journey since that decision to walk away from that retention bonus didn't turn out better, just different. I felt for me personally, I was being asked to compromise my values. Was it illegal? I don't know, possibly in today's corporate governance world. It was unethical in my opinion. Was it my responsibiltiy to find someone to talk to at the parent? Probably. Did I take the easy way out? It sure as heck didn't seem easy at that time, but maybe I did, I don't know.

Why do I write this publicly? We've talked about what this blog is, what it is for. I've looked into ways of generating money through this blog as it would be nice if I could augment at least my bankroll for writing this. Fundamentally, this is really for me, but it is also an investment in regular visitors as well as those who happen by. It is an investment in regular visitors as I benefit from complete strangers getting to know me under the broad flag of poker. I'm not the greatest strategist about how to play A7o in middle position, so I tend to give more about topics that I struggle with or give of myself as others seem to resonate with it. I share this most personal story as it definitely continues to shape my career and business challenges, as well as gives more insight into who I am. It is what it is, and nothing more.

Couple of final notes. Nice weekend of soccer, and go US today. Saw Poseidon last night with Sweetie, and it had what must be the worst poker scene in history. I have no short-term memory, but I think it went something like this: NLHE, the table is short-handed (five or six players), we see the river being dealt, there is definitely an ace on the board but I don't think any facecards, Josh Lucas is the designated high-stakes gambler and bets $5k, Kevin Dillon picks his cards up in a drunken stupor and mucks after some sort of wise crack (four players have card in front of them), Kurt Russell makes some comment about that pot having more than his dad made in a year, then raises to $15k, muck and Lucas then re-raises I think to $25k, then Russell's daughter and her boyfriend (who he surprised on the sofa of their suite, fully clothed but intimate) come up, and Russell chats it up with them, then tells her to button her shirt right after he re-re-re-raises to $40k, then Russell picks his cards up, his daughter then says that's great dad, a pair of fives, then the boyfriend reprimands her, then Lucas says he's all-in. Oh, and the dealer announces after each bet what the next bet is required to be. Oh, and there are only about ten string bets during this one hand with a speech before each action. Now what am I doing at Poseidon? I don't know exactly. I thought it was a poker movie. I kept laughing throughout the movie, although I don't think it was a comedy if Sweetie's elbows were any indicator.

Mark from the weekend: you left a post regarding wanting to chat about poker and faith, but there was no info on how to get back to you. Leave me another comment or email me at csquard@gmail.com. Lastly, Monday's Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, where we jump from this site to see where it takes us. Thanks again for being here, and have a good day.
  • DublinPoker: This was a first time visitor from the weekend (thanks analytics package). He's trying to win a seat to the WSOP, so good luck Rory Cartwright.
  • rounders123: I've hit the motherload of the big Irish poker scene. Rounders is also trying to get into the WSOP, but he's a sick puppy betting on everything from Formula One to baseball (Arizona over Atlanta)! I mean, you have to be sick to bet on baseball. Sorry, I didn't mean to offend all you sick degenerates out there...
  • Nuts On The Flop: ionapaul plays tourneys a good bit it seems. There will be a big Irish contingent at the Stars blogger tourney next weekend it looks like.
  • PokerOK: olly plays with this same crew, alot of local tourneys it looks like.
  • MilkyBarKid: Ben Grundy's site takes us away from Ireland, but this Londoner must have some serious game. Playing a bunch of WSOP tourneys, cashing at tourneys throughout Europe over the last couple years. See his Hendon results for the last couple years.
  • !Red Square Poker!: Razboynik is a Moscow player. I've been to one other Russian poker blog, and Raz seems pretty interesting. You'll have to check it out.


Blogger Falstaff said...

So here's my question back to you about your decision - if the CEO had come to you after work one day and asked you to commit fraud in exchange for a briefcase full of money, would you have taken it?

I think I know you well enough from reading here and the emails we've exchanged to know your answer will be "no." Well that's the starkest vision of what you were being asked to do, and while there are plenty of ways to dance around it, at the end of the day you were being asked to defraud buyers of the company. It would be similar to selling a plot of land and conveniently not mentioned that it was in an area that was likely to be labelled a floodplain within a year, so no construction would ever be possible there.

Walking away was the only way to keep your dignity and your standards. We each have a moral compass we have to follow, call is God, Buddha or Fred, but that moral compass will take care of you. You sacrificed wealth for the ability to look at yourself in the mirror each day. I'd have to say that was a good call.

And I liked the tourney reports from Mandalay Bay, so you might be able to do something with this writing thing after all :).

12:16 PM  
Blogger F.J. Delgado said...

You shouldn't second guess yourself when it comes to compromising your morals. I'm not any sort of authority, but it seems to me that you made a wise decision, and an admirable one.

2:34 PM  
Blogger Riverrun said...

You were way ahead of your time, two words now come to mind:

Sarbanes Oxley

I'm glad you know when to fold them!

4:05 PM  
Blogger cc said...

Thanks John, FJ, and riverrun. Pointed stuff which brings clarity to the grey area for sure, John. Tourney stuff was enjoyable, but I don't know if we can get rich off of it. There's only one Pauly.

4:56 PM  
Blogger JvilleWhip said...

Just want to thank you for sharing this story. As I balance my poker career with my professional career, I read this with great interest. While "what if's" will always play a part, I think you can hold your head high as you walk toward that next "open door".

Oh, and I take it Kurt Russell looses the pot after that statement? hehe

Best of luck,

5:33 PM  
Blogger cc said...

jvillewhip, yeah other guy then says I'm all-in. Of course, Russell and his daughter should have worked this before the cruise; instead, he mucks as she walks away with her boyfriend.

9:02 PM  
Blogger mowenumdown said...

I am with you bro. I am a golfer, and I have wittnessed some ... lets say ... questonable conduct from some of my fellow players. We always play for money, and I have always said that my integrity is worth more than any amount of money. When we leave this ole world , all that is left is our legacy. I want to leave a legacy of trust and integrity.

Thanks for sharing this.

10:34 PM  
Blogger OK said...


Googling myself to try and find a lost post turned up your blog.

Interesting read that post, my ethics and morals are not as definitive in this area as maybe they should be.

In the world of finance I'm a big believer in "buyer beware" and realistic enough to expect deception from the management or maybe thats how I'd justify "getting along" and taking the cash.

I'm going to have to think this one over.

Thanks for the linkage its a nice touch. I must try and do something similar on my own blog so I can greet visitors.



1:28 PM  

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