At 50, I sat in prison for violating the FCPA, among other offenses, due to no one’s fault but my own. At 40, I had sunk deep into the throes of drug addiction, which is not why I landed in prison at 50, but the addiction was a step in a series of awful decisions and contributed to my sense of narcissism and impunity.
Despite it all, I thrived physically between 40 and 50, running multiple marathons. But mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, I was careening toward catastrophe. Now, as I move on from 60, there are no more marathons. I also left behind, in my cube at the Federal Prison Camp in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, that sense of narcissism and impunity — doing whatever I want, whenever I want.
As part of a series of ice-breaker questions on a podcast with two legal leaders from Finland, I was recently asked, “What is your superpower?” I responded, “If you asked me that during my international sales career, I would have likely responded — I am the superpower — I can do anything, or so I believed.” But today, what a relief not to claim any superpowers, so I responded, “Thankfully, I have none.”
The problem with thinking you’re a superpower, or as I previously shared, being a corporate hero, is that the ego feeds itself, always becoming bigger and stronger. Before I got that call from the Justice Department that I was the target of a criminal investigation (even after being dismissed from my former employer), I continued to embrace my “superpower” status. No matter how much I had compromised my integrity, I was still the superpower at the center of my story. The DOJ call finally changed all that. Yes, what a relief.
In most of my posts here on the FCPA Blog and during my talks to corporate groups, I try to relate some universal lessons relevant to today’s compliance challenges. But today, in this post, I am not sure there are any universal lessons. Instead, there was my biggest personal lesson, finally, that I wasn’t any kind of hero after all.
That doesn’t mean I’m without regret for those decisions between 40 and 50. The harm and damage I caused to my loved ones is not something I can possibly forget or reverse. What I can do, however, is keep my “line in the sand,” as the DOJ prosecutor shared with Judge Leon at my sentencing, between the person I was then — and how I live my life now.
From my release from Lewisburg in December of 2013 until today, many people helped me in big and small ways, and I’m grateful to them all. And writing and speaking about my experience also serves as a continued reminder of how fortunate I am to have a second chance in life, including the opportunity to mitigate the consequences of my conduct from a legal perspective and to reset my life from an emotional and spiritual one.
My 60th birthday reflection?
I don’t know what the next decade holds. No more marathons, that’s certain. But I’ll try to keep making good choices. And when something comes along that I think holds a compliance lesson, I’ll do my best to share it with you — my friends and colleagues.
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