Thursday, May 05, 2011

Honesty and The Jewish Community VI: Cinco de Mayo

(continued as part of this series)

One year ago today, I was flying to Israel for the wedding of my best friend basically from birth, Shragi. (Shragi writes the Well Waddaya Know... series on SerandEz.) Though we were tight on money at the time, I had miles saved up from when I was a kid, and Kayla was still under two years old, so our tickets were about $300 total. Work had become a bit nerve-wracking as our CEO was acting increasingly odd, and each week's payroll was becoming a nightmare of waiting - often a week or two past when it was supposed to be paid. But the last couple weeks since we'd finished our annual audit had been calmer, the CEO was saying he'd been able to raise some more funding once we filed our financials and that it was coming in, so I decided it was a good time for a short break. Throw in that this was Shragi's wedding, and I felt I had to go. My trip was for 6 days, so it was going to be a bit crazy (we have a ton of relatives in Israel), but it'd be fun, too.

Shortly after landing on a bright sunny morning, I had an annoying situation with my rental car. Suddenly the rental agency wanted to put a $900 hold on my rental, even though the cost was about $200 for the week. I couldn't do that, and was pissed that they sprung this on me on the spot with a crying baby when they'd said I was done when I booked it originally, so I followed my cousin's (who was ironically flying to the US that evening) advice and rented from another agency. Once this was done, I headed to my sister- and brother-in-law in Ramat Beit Shemesh to drop off my stuff before heading to the Old City.

I spent a couple hours in RBS before calling up our amazing friend Rivka T., who was available to come hang out with me in Jerusalem. I drove on Kvish Achad (Highway 1), loving the familiar and quickly transforming sites as I drove up and down through the hills on the way into the city. I picked Rivka up from around Sha'arei Tzedek hospital, and we began navigating our way through the heavy Jerusalem traffic to the Old City, on the way to visiting the Western Wall. The Israeli GPS was alternately great or horrible, but we were getting close when my phone rang - and not my Israeli rental, but my US Blackberry, which was only supposed to be used for emergencies.

It was 2:30 or so in Israel, and about 7:30am in New York City, so I was surprised to see it was the COO from work. I picked up, said hello, and he asked if I was sitting down. I asked if driving a car counts, so he told me to pull off to the side for a minute.
(deep breath) [Our CEO] was arrested this morning. The FBI came to his house at 5am, banged on the door, came in, and took him in front of his wife and kids. I have no clue what's going on, but I figured I'd let you know what I knew. I'll talk to you as soon as I found out more.
(to be continued)


  1. If you knew he was doing this why didnt you blow the whistle?

  2. I wish I'd known. Even as we started to wonder stuff near the end, we really didn't know anything. Our biggest focus at that time was getting our own company off the ground, and putting everything in order in our own company, to make sure everything there was okay. We did that, particularly during our annual audit, and we actually went overboard in that regard. There simply wasn't anything to blow a whistle on in our company (which I would like to believe has a lot to do with how a few of us made it clear that everything must be done properly). Even in retrospect I can't think of what specifically could have been done on our part other than not having worked there, though I can rant on what others should have done - including government agencies.

  3. Does this discussion have any special connection with the "Jewish Community" or is it really about business ethics today in general?

  4. Extremely connected to the jewish community.

  5. Do you feel financial officers of companies have to be more proactive in ferreting out abuses, or would that get them fired?

  6. @Ezzie, what i gathered from media reports is hat he transferred a large sum of monies into his other company. That didnt send any signals??

  7. Bob - They should definitely be more proactive, but I would bet it would often end up getting them fired. Remember that until someone is arrested and often long after, they are viewed as saints by those who have or think they will make money.

    Anon - I honestly do not wish to discuss the details of that whole situation, as I'm moved on. This series is utilizing that story to make other points. But in short, that is what got my radar up - except every question I posed was given a reasonable answer, and money was consistently being put back until shortly before the arrest. Moreover it was completely beyond my control, and I was kept busy (likely on purpose) with tons of other responsibilities.

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