law

Interview with Rashmi Airan: Law, Blindspots, Prison and Redemption

An interview with Rashmi Airan, speaker on ethics, law and culture; leadership and compliance consultant; and growth strategist

 

Background:

Rashmi was a successful lawyer who graduated with honors from Columbia Law School. After working for several major corporations, she launched an independent law practice in Miami, Florida. During the housing boom, she was recruited to work with a local real-estate developer who later engaged in shady business practices. Her involvement resulted in a one year sentence in Federal prison, alongside a $19M judgment against future earnings, required community service hours and 3 years supervised release.  As a mother of two and devoted community activist, Rashmi has reconfigured her subsequent career to focus on growth strategies and leadership/compliance training for firms, corporations, and graduate schools.  She has also become widely known as a public speaker, sharing her story to help illustrate the ethical perils and situations that can result from a drive to succeed and the blindspots created when pursuing a goal.

This interview has been edited and condensed from a conversation on January 19, 2017.

 

1) What are the main takeaways from your story that you want others to know?

I believe there are many reasons why I am telling my story. I want to help people so that they do not find themselves in the same predicament that I was in and make different choices when faced with daily “gray” decisions.  I finally came to a place of peace that I had done something wrong when I gave myself the freedom to forgive.  After I forgave myself, my lessons became clearer. I reflected on different business relationships and the fact that I had not looked into things deeply enough.  I know there are lessons for both young and seasoned professionals. I believe I can enlighten people to the fact that there is a fine line and we must all walk between the two sides of right and wrong and choose to be on the right side of the line.

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Book Summary: The Rule of Nobody

In The Rule of Nobody, Philip Howard describes how bureaucracy is stifling U.S. institutions as well as the spirit of autonomy and free will among Americans. We live within a system whereby layers upon layers of often incomprehensible and inconsistent regulations, mandatory disclosures and requirements create a society that is “governed by dead laws” — meaning that since many of today’s laws are so outdated, they have been rendered irrelevant because layers of new (and sometimes inconsistent) laws have been enacted after them, or they have become otherwise destructive to the social good because they hamper progress. 

The Rule of Nobody [homepage | public library]

By: Philip K. Howard

Summarized by Azish Filabi

The book is packed with examples of inept laws replacing common sense human judgment.  In many cases, government agencies are comprised of well-meaning individuals who can’t apply their common sense and best judgment to resolve the problems they are hired to manage.

His recommendations for restoring human control of democracy and bringing about good government involves a series of reforms (summarized below) towards principles-based regulation, including appointing independent commissions to review and propose amendments to existing laws, to mandatory sunset provisions of all laws with budgetary impact, thus compelling Congress to consider the present needs of constituents when allocating expenditures.    

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Crediting the Behavioral Approach

This piece has been cross-posted from the NYU Law Compliance and Enforcement blog.

By: Timothy J. Lindon, Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer at Philip Morris International Inc.

 

The compliance message to companies from Washington is practical and encouraging.  Regulators are not looking to reward check-the-box programs or companies that simply say the right things about integrity in their Codes of Conduct.  They are looking for innovative approaches that work to prevent misconduct in the real world, and can be measured.

The problem of course is identifying and measuring what works.  We have lots of compliance metrics like training completion rates and the number of helpline calls, but none of them measures fully the impact of our programs on ethical decisions by individual employees.  In fact, research shows that many of the activities credited under the federal sentencing guidelines may actually be counter-productive.  For example, training that is regarded by employees as a check-the-box exercise is viewed as insincere and undermines compliance with policies.

So what works?

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Featured Collaborator for April: Jeffrey Kaplan

Interview with Jeffrey Kaplan, partner in the Kaplan & Walker LLP law firm in Princeton, New Jersey

What are your main areas of research /writing? 

I am principally a practitioner - in the compliance and ethics (“C&E”) field - rather than a professional researcher, and I certainly have not conducted any experimental research. I have done survey research – for the Conference Board (on the role of corporate directors in promoting C&E and on shortfalls in US government enforcement policy vis a vis C&E) and for the Ethics & Compliance Initiative (the “ECI,” which used to be called the ECOA) on conflicts of interest and various C&E program practices. Also, for the past four years I have been assembling and analyzing cases and articles about conflicts of interest (“COIs”) for a blog which looks at various COI issues across varying industry contexts (e.g., what types of interests are cognizable for COI purposes or when should a waiver be permitted) I hope at some point to turn these posts into a book about all things COI-related.

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Professionalism and Ethical Leadership From General Counsel’s Suite

Among the active debate among compliance professionals, lawyers, and commentators about the proper role of compliance within a corporate hierarchy, there is an emerging consensus that lawyers have become the “loophole finders” and that compliance must step in to protect the firm’s integrity and ethics. 

Azish Filabi, CEO of Ethical Systems and Jim Lager, ES collaborator, have written a piece for Corporate Counsel that addresses this ongoing conversation. Read the piece on "Professionalism and Ethical Leadership From General Counsel’s Suite." >>

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Did You Get the Memo? Confronting Corporate Wrongdoing

After the financial crisis of 2008 and the current, ongoing instances of large fines levied against banks and other financial companies, many people continually bemoan why penalties have not also included jail time and prosecution of executives who have behaved unethically. The message has finally reached the highest levels of government and change is on the horizon. 

In a speech at NYU Law last week, hosted by the school's Program on Corporate Compliance and Enforcement, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates presented the memo covering a new Department of Justice initiative designed to fight corporate fraud and other misconduct by going after individuals who perpetrated the wrongdoing. In addition to punitive actions against an organization (what many see as a macro-level punishment that does little to deter misconduct on the micro, or personal, level), the DOJ will now turn its considerable resources to affecting change at the source, i.e. those that engage in personal malfeasance under the guise of doing their job.

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How the government created the legal ecosystem for the financial crisis

Many Americans are angry that hardly any executives have gone to jail for fraud or other actions that caused the global financial crisis. In an essay in the New York Review of Books, judge Jed Rakoff gives his analysis of why federal prosecutors have not pressed charges. In part, it’s because the Federal Government itself was guilty. Judge Rakoff is the U.S.

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