Don’t get me wrong. In many cases, these former politicians, dignitaries or celebrities come back even stronger and have every right to do so because their new found visibility has little to do with past crimes or indiscretions. One case in point is Martha Stewart. Martha went to jail for insider trading (actually the official crime was lying to the government.) With her jail term served, those who cherished Martha’s wise home living advice and tips before, accepted her quite affectionately again by enthusiastically watching her shows, reading her magazines and books and maintaining their overall fan status.
Take a look at Eliot Spitzer and we see a completely different scenario, albeit an interesting storyline. It wasn’t so long ago that the former Governor of New York went through this state’s largest political scandal in recent history when the news broke that he was caught red handed frolicking with an expensive call girl. The governor quickly resigned from office and then created his own Richard Nixon-like, self exile scenario. We thought that would be the last of Mr. Spitzer, until 18 months later when he appeared on many talk shows to offer his very relevant commentary on the plummeting financial markets and Wall Street’s blame in the economic disaster that had resulted. Yes, people were shocked to see the disgraced governor in the spotlight again. Some were even outraged. Yet, in the end, this was most likely the smartest move Mr. Spitzer could have made to rehabilitate his image because the only positive and credible piece of his reputation that still existed was forged over a 12 year period as having an Elliot Ness approach to fighting Wall Street corruption and greed by standing up for all those ‘little people’ who needed to be protected.
Then, there exists a few hypocrisies that I simply don’t understand. These include real life examples of larger than life successful people who fell from grace because of some misdeed, or simply because their success was built on a lie. Yet, somehow, they managed to come back in the most credible and public way to provide counsel or advice on the very same issues or manners that caused the controversy in the first place. One such example I’m thinking of is the former dot.com super star analyst Henry Blodget.
Do you remember Henry? I certainly do. Think back to 1998 or 1999. This young buck was seen as a God within the investment/technology community for his outlandish Internet investment picks. At that time he worked at Merrill Lynch and instantly reached star status after predicting that Amazon would rise to become a $400 stock (which it actually did.) Every technology or Internet company wanted to get on the radar screen of young Henry after that. He was paid at the highest Wall Street levels, treated like a rock star in all public circles and seen as a new sage on Wall Street. This all worked beautifully well until the Internet bubble busted and it was later found out that Henry and others from Merrill’s research/analyst department were conducting questionable activities within the firm. He was sharing information (and more importantly) helping Merrill’s investment banking customers prosper by writing favorable financial reports on questionable business models. The Wall Street Chinese Wall relationship between research and investment banking was torn down because Henry (and others) helped Merrill make lots of money through these investment banking relationships at the expense of individual investors. In return, top analysts like Henry also received special early investment considerations into a number of the firm’s hot IPOs.
In the end, Henry’s picks all went south and his conflicted relationship within Merrill caused then New York State Attorney General to investigate him. Though he wasn’t ever convicted of anything, Henry was later barred from the securities industry and paid a fine of $2 million.
That’s why it makes no sense to me and truly comes across as the ultimate hypocrisy when I see that Henry is a top anchor and host on “Tech Ticker,” a heavily watched Internet news segment which dissects and analyzes the latest developments on Wall Street and within the technology world. I’ve watched these videos for over a year. While they are entertaining, it’s absurd that Henry actually plays the ‘heavy,’ watchdog role at times by beating up Wall Street executives and their companies for having ethical lapses and questionable judgment.
I’m not sure how Henry could be seen as credible by any audience on this topic based on a history laced with suspect decisions himself. Talk about the worst case of the pot calling the kettle black…