What went wrong? “I hate myself”


The chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey should have realized he was in trouble when he and the lobbyist for United Airlines teamed up to make the chairman’s trip to his vacation home in South Carolina more convenient. The lobbyist asked his client to resume non-stop flight service between the Newark and Columbia airports specifically for the chairman. United refused, but the lobbyist kept up the pressure.

About a month later, the lobbyist called and asked the chairman to intervene in a matter before the port authority that was important to United. Leaving a trail of emails behind, the chairman responded, “Yes, it’s already off this month’s agenda: I hate myself.” The lobbyist replied: “Finally have their attention. Having item off/on this week worked.” Just a few months later, United reinstated a direct flight based on the chairman’s preferred travel schedule to South Carolina. 

When the scheme unraveled, the chairman plead guilty to bribery and, under the terms of his plea agreement, faces up to 24 months in prison when he is sentenced this December. United agreed to pay a $2.25 million penalty and institute an enhanced compliance program designed to prevent and detect bribery and corruption violations in exchange for not being charged criminally for its role in the scheme. United’s CEO resigned. Charges of conspiring to commit bribery are still pending against the lobbyist. 

So what went wrong? No one listened to the voice inside their heads…“I hate myself.”  

This article was reprinted from the Fall 2016 Compliance Connections Newsletter. Download the complete issue here

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