LESSON: Although family, friends, and institutional placeholders may attempt to support leaders when in the crosshairs of the government, they must accept that they are ultimately alone. Leaders must take personal responsibility for every action and subsequent outcome in order to survive and make it out the other side. They must make decisions carefully, scrupulously, and with rigorous analysis.
The below lesson is an excerpt from my upcoming book, When Not If: A CEO's Guide to Overcoming Adversity, Forbes Book, January 2024.
CEO’s, entrepreneurs, and business owners of all sizes must understand today that if you stand up to the system, or choose to defend yourself against the state, you will automatically be regarded as an egregious, non-complying pariah. It is by design and incredibly effective. Also, the citizenry will instantly assume your guilt and repeatedly state, “Well the government wouldn’t do that if he wasn’t guilty.”
So, if you are going to stand up for what you believe is right, in the face of the unlimited resources against you, you must prepare for a paradigm in which everything you believed true before, is not, and in which everything that worked for you before, does not.
In Black Swan, Nassim Taleb writes, “You can afford to be compassionate, lax, and courteous if, once in a while, when it is least expected of you, but completely justified, you sue someone, or savage an enemy, just to show that you can walk the walk.”
Asst. U.S. Attorney Brian Samuels, in court and in numerous subsequent appeals, repeatedly labeled my efforts to defend our company and myself as a “scorched earth strategy.” I could never understand how our efforts to prove the truth were regarded as objectionable behavior, and repeatedly characterized as simply having no regret or remorse. By this reckoning, my attempts to tell our story were characterized as an egregious act against the state and the people. Never did I feel so disadvantaged and alone.
It was ridiculous of me to think that my legal team supported by a small battalion of accountants could rescue me. They were simply gnats the government and court mostly ignored. The facts bear an inescapable conclusion. My fate was predetermined on an institutional basis and the outcome was inevitable.
Unfortunately, I was not educated enough to see that. I could blame my attorneys and accountants for failing to educate me, but the responsibility was mine to see the reality of the situation. Sadly, I failed to see something even more insidious. I failed to grasp that I was but one defendant in an endless line of defendants. My rejection of three separate plea offers was an offense against the system, requiring them to go through the trouble of a trial – for which they would make me pay dearly (14 years instead of 3 years).
I never considered that long after I was locked up and forgotten, my lawyers would have to interact with the US attorneys and judges on innumerable other cases. They would have to work with the same clerks and bailiffs who kept the court running. And they would have to appear before the same judge who sentenced me.
It was delusional of me to think defense attorney James Broccoletti, would risk alienating the professionals he would have to work with again on countless future cases. I learned there were limits to how zealously he would stand against the prosecution determined to destroy me. My ego and prior success never let me see that Honorable Judge Robert G. Doumar would ensure there must be a conviction, lest so many others may decide to take their chances defending themselves at trial and bring a complete halt to the nation's judicial system.
Leaders, make your decisions carefully, scrupulously, and with rigorous analysis.
Have a great week!