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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Raymond Donovan's Reputation

Many years ago, Reagan Administration Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan was charged for crimes in connection with the defense contractor Wedtech. After being acquitted by a federal jury of all charges, Donovan famously remarked:

 "Which office do I go to get my reputation back?"

A useful recap of some prominent dropped prosecutions alleging some sort of business crime, where charges were filed and then retracted, is found this morning at www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=ayvDCmwMoLzg&pos=11. The cases include that of former Collins & Aikman CEO David Stockman.

Perhaps a little more care should have been taken before these charges were filed, as these men attest that reputational damage (perhaps never greater than in the internet age) is hard or impossible to reverse.

The text that follows will be appearing in an upcoming issue of Bloomberg Markets magazine, printing August 1st:

[Regarding the Bloomberg.com article to which a link is provided above] ...a good idea for
a related followup would be to examine the role one's prominence or standing (whether it be socially, politically, academically or financially) plays in making oneself an attractive target for government investigators and prosecutors who, in turn, will use the target to publicize their work and their abilities.

This leads to their ability to "slingshot" themselves with the resulting publicity into positions of higher pay and prominence. In essence, it is a system whereby some can build their careers by destroying others.  There are many others who, despite being totally innocent and sometimes with the
documents to prove it, are not indicted but nonetheless are accused or threatened with ruin on the basis of evidence which would be perjurious if uttered under oath. It suggests a prosecutorial culture where one may be threatened with impunity, one must (as a practical matter, not as a legal
threshold) prove his innocence (I.e., proving a negative), and where the harm to the innocent is considered acceptable collateral damage.

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