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The real crims wear white collars

Written By: - Date published: 9:57 am, February 25th, 2012 - 74 comments
Categories: business, capitalism, class, crime, scoundrels - Tags:

Directorships are the golden ticket in the world of the business elite. You attend maybe 10 meetings a year, sign whatever’s put in front of you, typically get paid $3-4K a pop, and do it over again half a dozen times or more for various companies. It’s a gravy train for managers past their use by date. But customers and shareholders have to trust what directors sign off on.

So, it’s good to see the Lombard directors being held to account for signing off on statements that were untrue. If you paid me $4,000 per meeting and were asking me to lend my name, and in Doug Graham’s case his prestige, to the reputation of your firm, I would know those documents intimately. I would want to double-check every fact. For $4,000 per meeting, that’s the kind of service the shareholders and customers deserve.

Liam Dann sums it up:

His crime – and these are criminal convictions with the potential for a jail term – is that he did not take the role seriously enough.

He signed up to a set of promises to investors and then failed to ensure those promises were kept.

Graham won’t go to jail as a ordinary person would if their actions had cost other millions of dollars through laziness or carelessness. Jail is for the poor. The elite still get treated with kid gloves in our justice system. But this case is a start. Let’s see more of the business elite swing for pocketing the money and letting the people who trusted them pick up the pieces when it all goes to crap.

74 comments on “The real crims wear white collars”

  1. marsman 1

    The prosecution has called for a jail term but the judge has already indicated that ‘community service would be more appropriate’. You are right ZETETIC our justice system ( or is it our judges? ) favours the well off. Is it the old boys network or can the well off afford ‘better’ legal representation?

    • bbfloyd 1.1

      if the sentences handed down conform to the judges direction, then the prosecution have obvious recourse to challenge on the basis that the judge had no right to dictate terms regarding the type of sentence the court deems appropriate before due deliberation has taken place….

      if this isn’t just a cosy little “nudge nudge, wink wink” between peers, then the prosecution has an obligation to appeal on the above grounds….

      we will soon see just how “neutral” our “justice” system is…

  2. John Day 2

    Why do we have Professional Directors. They are like greedy children. ” When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I believed as a child. When I became a man I put away childish things.” So many adults still speak as a child. They are still greedy. They are not competent.

    • Vicky32 2.1

      Why do we have Professional Directors. They are like greedy children. ” When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I believed as a child. When I became a man I put away childish things.” So many adults still speak as a child. They are still greedy. They are not competent.

      Seconded! :)

  3. IrishBill 3

    Indeed. It will be interesting to see what the penalty for the “runaway millionaire” will be. I suspect it will be more than community service. Mind you he stole from a big Australian bank rather than a bunch of small kiwi investors so jail is probably on the cards.

  4. chris73 4

    If it was up to me the directors would sharing a cell with big bubba

    • thatguynz 4.1

      +1

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 4.2

      If it was up to me Big Bubba would never have been brutalised into becoming the monster he is today, and would be happily and gainfully employed on a decent wage in a healthy community with low crime rates. Just saying…

      • IrishBill 4.2.1

        Yep. I’d add to that that idea that rape is simply part of the prison penalty is fucking disgraceful. As is the fact prison rape-jokes are prevalent in popular culture.

        • Kotahi Tane Huna 4.2.1.1

          +1

        • chris73 4.2.1.2

          Not sure I mentioned rape but my main point was they should do jail time and go to maximum security

          • felix 4.2.1.2.1

            Just out of curiosity, what was the reference to sharing a cell with Big Bubba intended to convey?

            Also why maximum security? Surely that’s to protect the community from extremely violent prisoners who pose an escape risk.

            • chris73 4.2.1.2.1.1

              Be nice for them to share some time with less well-off members of society for a change don’t you think

              maximum security to send a message

              • felix

                Ah, so “sharing a cell with big bubba” is code for “spending time with less well-off members of society”.

                Sorry I was confused but that’s only because every other time that phrase has ever been used in the history of ever, it’s been code for “being subjugated by a powerful & violent rapist”.

                My bad.

                • chris73

                  So you think they shouldn’t go to prison? Community service or detention be a good enough for you? Maybe a fine…

                  • KJT

                    No. Just there should be equality of punishment.

                    How long has the Captain of the Rena been held. For what was most likely a mistake, not negligence.

                    How much jail time is the person who stole $1000 going to get.
                    Compared to those who are stealing millions.

                    I am not an advocate of the effectiveness of jail for most ordinary criminals. Who have mental, drug or educational problems, in most cases, and would be less likely to re-offend after rehabilitation rather than jail.

                    These people are well educated and responsible sociopaths and serious punishment such as jail, or confiscation of assets, relative to the crime, are probably the only a deterrents that will work with them..

                  • felix

                    “So you think they shouldn’t go to prison?”

                    wtf, chris?

                    This isn’t about whether they go to prison, it’s about your belief that rape can be thought of as a kind of punishment.

                  • Rich

                    I wouldn’t send them to jail. Criminal bankruptcy. All their assets, including any trusts they might be a beneficiary of, confiscated to pay the people they ripped off. Never allowed to own a penny again.

                    There’s a spare space on Courtenay Place where they could live.

  5. prism 5

    His crime – and these are criminal convictions with the potential for a jail term – is that he did not take the role seriously enough.

    Good point here – taken from Lian Dann comment referred to. It seems to me that many of the business people don’t take their role seriously. and carry this lax attitude into their directorships. There are growing numbers of career politicians whose main interest seems to be – first finding out how the game is played, and then making sure that they appear to be on-side . Serving the people comes lowest as their social class is the one they look to, and scorn the rest when they suffer downturns with a quip ‘it’s the way the cookie crumbles mate’. Then it’s a fool who hasn’t got a position sewn up for their post-political career.

    It could be a serious consideration as I believe submissions are being asked for as to whether complicated NZ business cases should be held before judge alone, or a small panel, rather than have a jury.

    There is already cronyism in NZ and even in the States which is big enough to have a good selection, there are examples of careful manipulation of officials such as judges.. There they are chosen and remain in office till they die, supposedly always of Mahon-like probity, but getting the right political flavour from the first ensures that the way the chips will fall can be almost guaranteed.

    • johnm 5.1

      Prism
      “His crime – and these are criminal convictions with the potential for a jail term – is that he did not take the role seriously enough.”

      That’s not good enough! It amounts to constructive fraud!

      Some definitions of fraud:

      Definition of Fraud

      Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th edition, 1979 defines fraud as follows:

      “All mutifarious means which human ingenuity can devise, and which are resorted to by one individual to get an advantage over another by false suggestions or suppression of the truth. It includes all surprises, tricks, cunning or dissembling, and any unfair way which another is cheated.”
      Being deliberately thick counts here as well!

      The legal-dictionary.the free dictionary.com/fraud calls it:

      “A false representation of a matter of fact – whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of what should have been disclosed – that deceives and is intended to deceive another so that the individual will act upon it to her or his legal injury.”

      Criminal and civil frauds differ in the level of proof required – the former needs a “preponderance of evidence;” the latter must prove intent and be “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

      These guys will go to a white collar prison ,more like a holiday camp they’ll survive ok,

  6. KJT 6

    When are the two politicians who were Directors of Huljich going to be charged.

    And the insider traders who bought into SCF just before it was bailed out. Despite the Managers, National and Directors, and I do not mean Hubbard, knowing it was in breach of the guarantee agreement.

    Not to mention Douglas and co selling us out to the tune of 14 billion a year..

    Key’s gaming of our currency to make his money. Which should be illegal. It is just as much stealing as the one who ran of with the banks money.

    At what level of blatant theft are you exempt from prosecution?

    Just make your theft big enough and you will get away with it!

    • starlight 6.1

      With regard to scf, treasury told english he wasn’t acting under the terms of the retail
      deposit scheme,so english changed the terms and conditions and called a meeting with
      the investors and told them ‘they now had the crown guarantee’ there was a subsequent
      rush on deposits and english was questioned in parliament about it and all he could say
      was ‘well it was labour who introduced it’,the wezel blaming labour when he changed
      the terms and conditions to allow it,under labour’s terms and conditions the rort would
      not have happpened.
      Just look at how key and english are going to shaft the maori party over the asset sales,the maori
      party need a kick in the proverbial.

      • starlight 6.1.1

        Bill english announced that he will change terms and conditions of labours retail deposit scheme on the 25th august 09, this is on the beehive.govt.nz site.

  7. keith ross 7

    if I had of swindled a bunch of people out of millions I would be going to jail right now. I saw the look that the judge gave these ” upstanding gentlemen” when talking about the sentencing, it was “yea, no worries boys,I got your back”. Being the ex justice minister should be an aggravating factor.
    It makes me feel sick that these greedy ,already rich criminals will not get what they deserve. The same jail time that you or I would get for a crime of this magnitude.

  8. Kotahi Tane Huna 8

    With this in mind, let’s hope the judge’s decision comes in just before lunch.

  9. Nick K 9

    As a centre-right voter, I tend to agree with most of what you’ve written. Sure, there might not have been any intent by Graham to mislead investors and I’m willing to accept his actions were almost certainly *not* deliberate in any way. But simply because you were a former MP and Minister doesn’t mean you are a leading candidate to be a company director for a company that took millions off elderly investors. To me this comes down to one thing that I think is lacking in New Zealand’s leaders (and directors it seems) in spades – courage. At least Luxton and Creech told Mark Bryers to foxtrot oscar when he wouldn’t tell them what the feck was happening at Blue Chip, but they are now facing investigation. Any director who rubber stamps Disclosure Statements deserves all they get. Graham should have known better. I don’t subscribe to the view that elites don’t go to jail. The SFO has been putting white collar crims in jail for years.

  10. It’s interesting that Zetetic has chosen not to mention William Patrick “Bill” Jefferies; Labour MP for the Heretaunga electorate from 1981 to 1990, and Graham’s predecessor as Minister of Justice from 1989 to the 1990 election. He’s been found guilty of exactly the same charges as Graham and other directors.

    DPF described this yesterday a “a sad verdict”; I disagree completely. It’s a sign that any New Zealander, even a Knight will be found guilty if they break the law, and that they will have to live with any consequences of a conviction. It’s also a salutory lesson to company directors that they are as cuplable for bad decisions made as are the people who make the decisions. It may be a sad exit from public life for Graham and Jefferies, but both ought to have been able to see the consequences of the decisions they were making.

    • felix 10.1

      “It’s a sign that any New Zealander, even a Knight will be found guilty if they break the law, and that they will have to live with any consequences of a conviction.”

      Meh. These guys didn’t do anything different to what most directors do – sit on their chuffs getting fat and old, rubber stamping things they mostly couldn’t give a fuck about.

      The message being sent is “Carry on with business as usual, that the worst thing that’ll ever happen is a bit of community service”.

      And it’s not the end of their careers or any such drama. It’ll all be forgiven and forgotten and they’ll be hired to keep the seats warm on another bunch of boards as soon as you can say “See you at the northern club old boy”.

      • Kotahi Tane Huna 10.1.1

        Depends what sort of a mood the judge is in I guess.

        • felix 10.1.1.1

          Yeah there’s the possibility, but I had the impression that the judge had already indicated community service would be appropriate in this case.

          Maybe I have my wires crossed.

          EDIT: Oh sorry I see the bit you meant now. Yes I wonder how that’ll go.

    • Zetetic 10.2

      I wrote “in Doug Graham’s case his prestige”

      Since I write on a political blog and I’ve never heard of Jefferies, I don’t think he has any prestige to lend to Lombard. Graham does and did.

      • Inventory2 10.2.1

        Then you’re pretty poorly informed Zet; most media has referred to both Graham and Jeffries being former Justice ministers.

        And FWIW, if there’s no appeal from Graham, I think that serious consideration should be given to his knighthood.

  11. Leopold 11

    Where’s the Sensible Sentencing Trust when you need them?

    • Draco T Bastard 11.1

      They’re part of the Old Boys club and so they’ll be busy making up excuses for them – same as they did for the upstanding business fellow who killed a kid for graffiti.

  12. Leopold 12

    And while I about it, to quote Mr Guthrie:

    Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered
    I’ve seen lots of funny men;
    Some will rob you with a six-gun,
    And some with a fountain pen.

    And as through your life you travel,
    Yes, as through your life you roam,
    You won’t never see an outlaw
    Drive a family from their home.

  13. ChrisH 13

    From an article by Chrystia Freeland on the revolutions of 2011:

    “The unifying complaint is crony capitalism. That’s a broad term, to be sure, and its bloody Libyan manifestation bears little resemblance to complaints about the Troubled Asset Relief Program in the United States or allegations of corrupt auctions for telecommunications licenses in India. But the notion that the rules of the economic game are rigged to benefit the elites at the expense of the middle class has had remarkable resonance this year around the world and across the political spectrum. Could the failure of the experts to anticipate this anger be connected to the fact that the analysts are usually part of the 1 percent, or at least the 10 percent, at the top?”

    http://blogs.reuters.com/chrystia-freeland/2011/12/29/in-2011-the-revolution-was-tweeted/

    So, a revolt against crony capitalism couldn’t happen here either?

  14. ianmac 14

    Good to see that the Lombard directors at least facing Court. (Didn’t National work hard to keep the Serious Fraud Office going and now might rue the day when their mates get clobbered?)
    If the Directors are guilty, what happened to the CEO and his staff for surely they must have been even more guilty?

  15. Peter Marshall 15

    I hope they go to jail myself .
    Also, I hope when they come out their arseholes are a lot larger after sharing a cell with big bubba.

  16. tsmithfield 16

    Not trying to minimize what they have been found guilty at all, and I tend to echo many of the sentiments expressed above.

    However, as I understand it, there has been no suggestion they deliberately went out to deceive investors. It appears to be a lack of care and scrutiny on their part, rather than deliberate deception. This distinction may be why they don’t get jail terms.

    • marsman 16.1

      It seems to me though that through their lack of care and scrutiny they caused many people to lose much money therefore are culpable whether that lack of care was deliberate or not. After all if someone crashes a car and causes much damage a lack of care while driving would not be a mitigating circumstance. Care is fundamental to the director’s job and to the driver’s job.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 16.2

      Bruce Sheppard used to bang on (probably still does for all I’ve been paying attention) about the consequences of diversified portfolio theory being a major problem in this regard – since you invest in everything and take the overall return as good enough, shareholder scrutiny of directors simply disappears from the equation.

      I am also reminded of Steve Eisman’s “say that again in English!” challenge in boardrooms, as a way to find out whether the talking heads had a clue one way or another. Mostly they didn’t.

      Court cases like this are one way directors can be forcibly reminded of their responsibilities, but what happened to ethics? Perhaps I’m being unnecessarily Dickensian but basic principles are kind of important – like don’t sign shit you haven’t read and don’t endorse stuff you haven’t fact checked. Yeah whatever, rant over. :/

      • burt 16.2.1

        Kotahi Tane Huna

        since you invest in everything and take the overall return as good enough, shareholder scrutiny of directors simply disappears from the equation.

        Exactly, highly paid incompetent managers of a sausage factory.

    • Inventory2 16.3

      That’s as maybe TS, but it’s a wake-up call to company directors that the buck stops with them if they sign off on decisions made by staff.

      • Billy Fish 16.3.1

        Doug Graham stood up in meetings and catagorically assured investors that the money was there and there were no issues and to keep on investing – so either he is
        1: A cretin (unlikely),
        2: A liar (possible) or
        3: Trusted Liars (most likely) in which case he failed in his job and has shown himself to be incompetent in his role(s). He was paid a goodly amount to act as the guardian / gatekeeper of a lot of peoples money and showed, via action or inaction, an inability to fufil his role. Pay back the directors fees please with penalty rates applied as we, judicial system to sort out the rest.

  17. lefty 17

    I don’t believe in imprisonment for crimes against property but if we are going to do it we should be consistent and lock these guys up with the dozens of others who are convicted for stealing far less every week.

    There is a reason why lawyers advise their clients to wear suits at their trials, and especially during sentencing.

    Its because most men in suits are thieves but few end up in jail.

    Sometimes its because their crimes against the rest of us are legal.

    Sometimes its because the judge sees a mirror image of him/herself when a man in a suit stands before them.

    Of course the supposed victimes in this particular case are not so innocent either.

    They wanted to make a lot of money for doing nothing and handed over their savings (or the surplus value they had stolen from workers they employed over the years) to these guys to do whatever dodgy sort of thing is needed to make that happen.

    They must have known these guys were crooks – some of them have knighthoods and, apart from the odd sportsperson, you have to be a pretty nasty piece of work to get one of them.

    And of course they all wear suits ,which is like carrying a flashing neon sign that says, “I am going to rip you off if I can.”

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 17.1

      No bollocks! Bondage up yours! If the whole notion of “harsh punishment” is bnuk it applies equally well to Tories as law abiding member of society.

      They are the worst kind of lowlife: those that abuse serendipity. How should their ethics inform ours?

  18. coolas 18

    ‘Sir’ should loose his knighthood when he goes to prison with the rest of these crooks.

    These guys are typical of the pale, stale, lazy males who infest NZ boardrooms because of the status or gravitas they’re perceived to contribute. It’s elitist crap. They signed off propaganda and lies that robbed people.

    I’m not suggesting they come to Mangaroa as Mongrel Mob bitches – but they should do time.

    ‘We were only getting a few beers,’ gets you time if you rob a liquor store in Flaxmere.

  19. Kotahi Tane Huna 19

    Yes! Lazy male elitists are the problem. Sigh…

  20. DH 20

    Carrying on the theme…

    When the HBDHB fiasco blew up the subsequent investigation sent a message to NZ that everyone pretty much ignored or were simply not perceptive enough to see. A number of HBDHB board members were revealed to have been using their (trusted) position to protect or further their personal business interests. That flew under the political radar because they weren’t Hausmann but others should have noticed and few did.

    It’s what the findings portend that are important. While the circumstances that led to the investigation were a little unusual the HBDHB was just another publicly elected board; no different to thousands of elected boards around the country. Local councils are publicly elected boards.

    The message everyone should have received was that if one board picked at random had members on the make then a whole lot more out there have them too. The door to the corruption room was opened for a brief moment & then slammed shut again, no-one wants to know. Pity really.

    • Draco T Bastard 20.1

      Corruption seems to be systemic to all hierarchical social structures. The occult nature of those hierarchy, where what is decided/enacted is done behind closed doors, makes it inevitable.

    • burt 20.2

      DH

      A number of HBDHB board members were revealed to have been using their (trusted) position to protect or further their personal business interests.

      Yes… indeed. Now who’s husband was given a job in who’s company ???? Oh, that’s right. The husband of the minister of health at that time was given a job in the company that was awarded a $50m contract that never went to public tender…. The director of that company actually worked on the RFI document for the HBDHB.

      Politics slammed that door closed DH and the whole time the party apologists just kept saying move on to protect the best interests of the party.

      Like I said earlier, at least the Lombard crooks actually stood in court ! It’s amazing how justice works best when there is a separation between the judiciary and parliament.

      • DH 20.2.1

        You’re like the rest of the lemmings Burt. The investigation uncovered other issues of conflicts of interest that were unrelated to the Annette King story and which had far more serious implications. All you can do is vent your spite over Hausmann being exonerated. Can’t see the wood for the trees.

    • Descendant Of Smith 20.3

      Really – here’s the report.
      https://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/…/hbdhb-report-mar08-2.pdf
      In general I understood it found that the DHB had really poor processes for handling conflicts of interest.

      • DH 20.3.1

        That’s a rather benign way of putting it but yes that’s pretty much what they found. The burning question is how many other publicly elected boards have poor processes for handling conflicts of interest.

        The report should have led to the formation of a small team of random auditors.

      • Descendant Of Smith 20.3.2

        Here’s the other bit I was looking for.
        www.baybuzz.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/…/AtkinsonAffidavit2.pdf
        Of course some of things not revealed here are other conflicts of interests from the people raising these issues e.g. Diana Kirton would have liked the funding to go to EIT where she also works – and presumably rather that have these women paid while they learn would prefer they take out student loans. More funding for EIT.
        The end result of all this fuss and bullshit was that women who were sole-parents in low socio-economic communities who were being trained to have meaningful employment in the health sector and paid a decent wage while doing this lost this opportunity.
        I know a couple of people who were on this program and it completely turned their lives around and they are now gainfully employed.
        I took some interest at the time because it seemed to me that what was actually being done was lost in the whole picture.
        At the end of the day no-one seemed to give a shit about these women while they played politics.
         

        • DH 20.3.2.1

          That I don’t know anything about. I just followed the media reporting, read the draft & final reports etc & noted the issues of conflicts of interest from board members.

          There’s nothing difficult about handling conflicts of interest when you’re in a position of trust. The default position is that if you’re conflicted on an issue you stand down from it.

          Whether there was any actual corruption or not is unknown but the potential was there & they should never have put themselves in such a position.

          • burt 20.3.2.1.1

            You’re like the rest of the lemmings Burt.

            nek minnit….

            That I don’t know anything about. I just followed the media reporting…

            Laugh a minute DH !!!!!!!

            • DH 20.3.2.1.1.1

              You forgot the last bit Burt… I read the official reports. I bet you didn’t.

              • burt

                DH

                I’m not going to inflame the site moderators accepting that bet. Under duress I decline.

                Interesting though reading the Affidavit linked above in how it clearly highlights that conflicts of interest were an ongoing concern when you noted;

                There’s nothing difficult about handling conflicts of interest when you’re in a position of trust. The default position is that if you’re conflicted on an issue you stand down from it.

                The board member appointed was known to be conflicted at the time of appointment…. how viable is that default position now? How general can we discuss this to completely avoid the core issue.

                These official reports “you” had, was there a yellow brick road mentioned here and there?

                Why would you expect any different outcome today compared to one that you seem comfortable with from this previous outburst of ‘Hello hello what’s going on here then?’ activity?

                • DH

                  There’s no conflict in being a board member Burt, that role is merely the general oversight of the public organisation concerned. Conflicts arise when you’re involved in making decisions on individual issues you have a personal interest in. The conflict is exascerbated further if you have a financial interest in the issue.

                  One of the reasons for having a board rather than just a chair is to provide enough non-conflicted persons to cover every issue that arises in the process of running the organisation. That’s pretty basic I’d have thought.

                  What the investigation revealed was a dire need for random auditing of all publicly elected boards to see how they were handling conflicts of interest.

  21. vto 21

    Some people are banging on in a defence of Graham and the others as if they had no criminal intent and that because of that there should be no jail time…

    There are many many offences which are deemed crimes and deserving of jail time despite the lack of intent. Society and the centuries-old justice system has come to this conclusion and set these in place They generally turn on the actions or inactions of the person being of such negligence that it must be deemed a crime – in other words, people have duty of a type of care to fellow humans that cannot be ignored. The best example of this is manslaughter.

    Given the scores of investors who lost money due to the complete and utter negligence of Graham and others, and given the significant and devastating amounts involved, it seems clear that society expects jail terms for these actions.

    And on another note – I recall very specifically the time when these events unfolded. It was obvious to everyone in and around the financa companies that they were in freefall. Doug Graham and Bill Jeffries are genuine fools if their claims of innocence are the truth.

    • burt 21.1

      X-Politicians. They probably assumed that all they would need to do was pay the money back and say the [insert-authority-here] changed the rules then denigrate the accusers and move on….

      • marsman 21.1.1

        Unfortunately these kind of crooks hide their money behind Family Trusts and courts still seem reluctant to have a good look at some of these Trusts.

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