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MY LEADERSHIP MISTAKES KILLED MY FATHER




LESSON: As a successful CEO, I lived in a fantasy world, and my naiveté and passive reliance nearly sealed my fate. I should have known better. I had built a successful business on the understanding that humans will always work in what they regard as their self- interest, but for some reason, in this foreign battle my insecurities had me believe that all these experts would seek the truth and a logical resolution. My self-confidence blinded me at this most critical point in my life when I should have been applying long-term leadership and organizational behavior experience.

 

The below lesson is an excerpt from my upcoming book, When Not If: A CEO's Guide to Overcoming Adversity, Forbes Book, January 2024.

 

Following his retirement, I had talked my father into working special projects for me, moving him and Mom down to Virginia, and for nearly fifteen years allowing him to spend every day with his new grandson, whom he adored. Now, his last moments were consumed with my greatest failure and disappointment. I was crushed he would not be around to see me fix this debacle. He had taken my downfall, our downfall, extremely hard, and I am convinced the incredible stress accelerated his cancer and shortened his time with our family.

 

We had always overcome our challenges, together, but this time his last view would be complete destruction. His cancer rapidly spread and hospice took over very soon after. I fought with lawyers all day, and each night I tried to bring him relief with tales of our past triumphs and stories of how I was going to win this battle against Goliath. He would repeat, “Never let the bastards get you down!”

 

James Broccoletti called me to let me know the prosecutors, AUSA’s Brian Samuels and Katy Dougherty, wanted to postpone the trial start date due to my father’s imminent passing. At first, I was touched by what seemed an ounce of compassion from our foes, but James quickly explained they did not want my father to die in the middle of trial and the defense to receive any sympathy from the jury. I would just have to attend a quick hearing with the Honorable Judge Robert G. Doumar to implement this delay.

 

This was my first exposure to Judge Doumar, a legendary federal judge in Norfolk, Virginia, and I was also, of course, hoping to make a good first impression. Apparently, somebody beat me to it. This would be the first time I was blindsided by the actions of the courtroom, but certainly not the last.

 

After the lawyers presented the quick background for the hearing, eighty-three-year-old Judge Doumar, who initially looked like any other gentle grandfather I may have known, began aggressively interrogating me from the bench about items I had no idea how to answer. His theatrics were well-planned and choreographed.

 

His following Order released to the press stated, “[T]he Court found Defendant’s testimony to be equivocal and evasive. Defendant is allegedly well-versed in the provision of financial services. Though claiming to handle finances for his parents since his father fell ill, Defendant was unable to answer even basic questions concerning their capacity to afford third-party care. Even questions concerning his personal finances drew vague responses. For instance, prior to the hearing the Court learned from pre-trial services that Defendant’s recent monthly expenses included: (l) $2,100 per month for a 3-bedroom condo in downtown Norfolk; (2) $475 per month for payment on a recent model year Audi A6; (3) $995 for dining out; and (4) $200 per month in utilities…When questioned about that rather large budget for dining out, however, Defendant claimed to not know what the Court was talking about. Moreover, Defendant provided inconsistent testimony in some respects. In light of Defendant’s equivocal and evasive testimony during the November 28, 2012, hearing, the Court declines to credit his claim that he intends to spend significant time caring for his terminally ill father in the coming months… Therefore, the Court DENIES Defendant’s Motion to Continue Trial insofar as it is based on Defendant’s alleged need to care for his terminally ill father” [Doc. 30. 11/29/2012].

 

Again, I didn’t ask them for this delay, they asked me. But each ruling, just as I learned with the regulator’s settlement, always would reverse the proceedings into a request, or offer, from me.  This is how everything is positioned for the public.

 

The prosecution later proposed a postponement based on workload to achieve their objective, but this theater had, seemingly, accomplished the purpose of positioning the case, and myself, as the wealthy, equivocal, inconsistent, evasive, and, of course, guilty defendant for the public and all parties. What suddenly terrified me at this moment was the wakeup call that not only the prosecution was positioning this strategy but also the Honorable Robert Doumar. Maybe I should have reconsidered those three plea offers.

 

But, instead, my competitive and immature anger caused me to dig in my heels further and vow to win this battle, with my father looking over. I began to realize my defense attorney, James Broccoletti, was not in control of any part of this process, and that the prosecution, pretrial administrators, and apparently the court itself were all aligned with the same objective. Outside of my remaining friends who were helpless in this federal world with its own rules, and my faithful mother showing up each day to support me just as we see in countless court hearings for minorities annually, I was alone to fight this fight and pull off a victory that everyone told me was impossible.

 

As a successful CEO surrounded by sycophants and those feeding from the significant economic benefits, I lived in a fantasy world, and my naiveté and passive reliance nearly sealed my fate...nearly.  Learn from my mistakes!

 

Have a great week!

 

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