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The College Bribery Scandal: Personal Conduct vs. Business Conduct

By Bruce Hennes, CEO, Hennes Communications

The recent college bribery scandal is explosive.  Hollywood stars, famous sports coaches, parents doing “whatever is necessary” to help their kids, coveted slots going to the wealthiest instead of the most meritorious or deserving, this issue touches a multitude of contemporary issues.

One facet of this issue that we find especially interesting is about how the actions of a CEO or senior business leader – actions taken in their private life – can threaten the integrity of an entire company or organization.

In one particular situation, the former co-chairman, Gordon Caplan, of Willkie Farr & Gallagher, a “Big Law”  law firm, is now facing challenges from both legal regulatory authorities and his own law firm.

Willkie placed Caplan on leave this week as he now defends himself against charges related to allegations that he spent $75,000 to have his daughter’s standardized test score fudged. Caplan was allegedly overheard on federal wiretaps saying he was not concerned with “the moral issue” related to lying to colleges about his daughter’s ACT score.

Whether you work for a nonprofit, for-profit, medical or educational institution, government agency or a professional services firm, the lessons are clear:  there’s little separation between the public and private these days.

Check out this article in The American Lawyer.

Parting Thought.  Nowadays, many reporters writing about controversial behavior include comment from so-called “crisis communications specialists.”  Articles about the college bribery scandal are notable in that most of those “crisis consultants” are in full sophistry mode, flirting and dancing with a wide variety of explanations, suggestions and shiny objects.  Most notable, not one of the consultants whose quotes we’ve read have offered the kind of counsel we’d offer:  How about simply telling the truth.

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