When Your Hat is Gray, Not Black or White

Image: Bob RosnerThe arbiter of all things popular, Google, last Saturday said that Internet search was dominated by three topics: the suicide death of ponzi scam king Bernie Madoff’s son, the 2010 Army Navy football game and Santacon 2010 in New York City.

Okay, I probably weakened my point about Mark Madoff by bringing up the football game and Santacon, but how do you ever pass on a Santacon reference? I certainly couldn’t.

Mark Madoff’s life is simultaneously, something that very few people can relate to and also an amazing prism for everyone trying to navigate to choppy waters of today’s workplace. Before I explain, let me give a quick refresher course.

Madoff’s dad created a sink hole that eventually swallowed relatives, friends and some top charities. The more you think about what happened, the more you think that Bernie could be nominated as the top sociopath of this century. Okay, it’s early in the century, but you don’t see evil like that very often.

But remember, it was Mark who turned in his dad to authorities. Okay, some could argue that he saw it all coming and called the cops earlier, but at least he finally put an end to any additional financial bleeding.

The narrative immediately after Mark’s suicide is that it was timed with the second anniversary of the scam being discovered and by the inclusion of Mark’s kids in the lawsuits to recovery money from people who profited from Bernie’s evil finally pushed him over the edge.

Unemployable, disgraced and facing the prospect of years of litigation for everyone who shared his family name and friends you can understand the desperation. But the goal of this blog isn’t to make you feel sorry for Mark. It’s to make you aware of the ever present law of unintended consequences.

Sure, Mark knowingly or unknowingly profited from his father’s business ventures for years. He held high positions in the company. And yes, some can argue that there were actually legitimate, money making components of the Madoff business, in addition to the ponzi scam.

But once the enterprise started to crumble, the guilty, the innocent and everyone in between got painted by the same broad brush of shame and retribution.

I actually applaud the attempts to recover money for the people who lost everything. And I understand the scorn that people feel who never had anything to lose but who were asked to feel sorry for these rich people who are crying over their loss of stature and sustenance.

What’s the point for the rest of us? The importance of avoiding questionable financial dealings whenever you see them. From Enron to Lehman, the rule of too good to be true still applies.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.