“Reputation is what you do when others are watching. Character is what you do when no one is watching.” I don’t know who first said that, but it certainly rings true.  

Last time we looked at the lack of integrity in major political and business professionals who destroyed their own personal reputations as well as, in many cases, that of the organizations to which they belong. How many more Weiner jokes will we have? What about that “blue dress”? What does the name Enron bring to mind? What about “I am not a crook”?  

There are a couple of more people that come to mind in these very troubled times. The current recession from which we have not been able to extract the country was set in motion by the housing crisis. This was the result of credit default swaps, which no one really understood, that went into the tank. The CEO of AIG, Joseph Cassano, on Dec. 5, 2007,stated:  “We are highly confident that we will have no realized losses on the [company’s credit default swaps] portfolios.”  

In March 2008, only three months later, AIG posted a loss of $5.29 billion. How’s that for the big lie! How could any CEO not see a $5 billion loss coming? For that slight oversight, Mr. Cassano was forced to retire in 2008. But he received $280 million in cash, $34 million in bonuses and a $1 million/month consulting fee so they wouldn’t lose his 20 years experience! Fortunately, the consulting fee was later dropped, but we taxpayers forked over $85 billion to salvage the company! Cassano is hiding out in London.  

Also aiding and abetting in the housing collapse were the two federal housing programs – Fannie May and Freddie Mac. Whatever these monstrous government bureaucracies do in this world, in the spring of 2008, our noble Chairman of the Fed, Ben Bernanke, stated that these entities were in “no danger of failing”. Mr. Bernanke continues on.  

Nobody is perfect. We all have our individual weaknesses and flaws. It’s how we deal with those weaknesses that make for integrity. The little white lies, the forgotten golf strokes – small items in themselves – but if you let your guard down, they can lead you into the big lie that can crush your reputation and your company. America, we need to restore our sense of honesty and integrity. As America’s business leaders, it can begin with us.