LESSON: Regardless of your life-long good deeds and success, the system must turn you into a villain in the press and the courtroom to overcome an absence of actual evidence or intent. Business leaders must understand the system is extremely well-practiced and holds unlimited resources (your tax dollars). Plan your life accordingly, as clearly, I did not.
The below lesson is an excerpt from my recently released Amazon #1 Best Seller, When Not If: A CEO's Guide to Overcoming Adversity, Forbes Books.
The prosecution had to overcome and counteract the substantial good works performed by the company and myself in the previous two decades. My own participation had to be erased. I had served as president of Big Brothers Big Sisters, chairman of The Children’s Village, board director for the USO, and so many more positions, along with an open checkbook for pretty much every community leader who had a worthy initiative.
The government cleverly stipulated that I did good work, but then attempted to negate everything by painting me as a wealthy, narcissistic, gambling, womanizing, alcoholic CEO who finally went off the rails after the Financial Crisis of 2008.
This was the only way these alleged fraudulent, inconsistent behaviors could be believed by a jury. The strategy helped the jurors overcome what would otherwise be a debilitating case of cognitive dissonance—the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. They were brilliant. Netflix could not have presented a more binge-worthy series.
I struggled to objectively understand everyone’s scramble to protect their own self-interests and to capitalize on the opportunity offered by my vulnerable state. The takeaway: never let a good crisis go to waste. The testimonies were incredibly well-scripted. In the courtroom I could see the prosecution guide each new witness into the conference room behind the observers. I imagined the prosecution team carefully rehearsing each testimony.
Ms. Jayne DiVincenzo: One opportunity I had to express concerns to Mr. Martinovich was at 9:30 in the morning at the Marriott Hotel. He was drinking Sauvignon Blanc at 9:30 in the morning. I mentioned to him I was very concerned that he might have a drinking problem, and he blew up at me. And I knew my days were numbered there. [Tr. p. 1186].
The narrative was hammered home along with a superb case of class warfare just in case any hard-working Newport News, Virginia, juror hadn’t been paying attention. On the large courtroom monitors, AUSA Brian Samuels would repeatedly display pictures of my conspicuous consumption: Ferrari, Bentley, and beach house. They even flew out the Bellagio pit boss to testify to my average blackjack wager. I’m not sure what that had to do with the price of a stock in a hedge fund.
These displays of excess became common topics of the prosecution, newspapers, and even occupying twenty minutes of Judge Doumar’s sentencing soliloquy.
Judge Doumar: "That Bentley, that Maserati, that house on the James River, those trips to Vegas, the Christmas parties, the luxury everything—all that was built on the lies he told to people who trusted him.” [Sentencing Tr. p. 76]
There is a leadership lesson here. How many CEOs and entrepreneurs reading this are right now taking inventory of what will be turned against them once the extreme adversity arrives?
Order Amazon #1 Best Seller When Not If (Hardback, Kindle, Audio: https://www.amazon.com/When-Not-If-Overcoming-Adversity/dp/B0CKWTYSFF/r