Posted by an Honored Guest
Are you in PR? Well, this could be you. You could be Prisoner #31236-112.
The following is a letter from John Stodder, former SVP in the L.A. office of Fleishman-Hillard. As you know, almost exactly a year ago he and former general manager Doug Dowie were convicted of multiple counts of conspiracy and fraud in a scheme to overbill the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
That said, we at Strumpette strongly believe they're innocent. Well, let’s put it this way: if they’re guilty… so is all of the PR Industry. Bottom line: What they are going to jail for, all of us have done; Ninety-eight percent of us will do today.
That aside, we’ve gotten to know John personally this last year. We know him only as a total gentleman, one that exudes character and principle. Excuse me, he wouldn’t steal a dime from Bill Gates to buy his last stick of gum.
Let me put that in perspective: We know legions of PRs. Like the makeup of any group, you’ve got people with principle and character; you’ve got people too confused and regrettably stupid to know principle if it hit them in the head; and you’ve got total parasites that live on loopholes and the weaknesses of others. Considering the makeup of the PR industry, John Stodder is quite rare.
Without further ado, here's his letter. Read it. Most of all, put yourself in his shoes. Imagine going to jail for what you've done as a matter of standard practice just today.
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
For PR offenders, there should be a special jail, or perhaps a re-education facility, for these folks. Their punishment? Listening to Edelman podcasts all day and night.
I am all for re-education. I have a colleague that thinks ALL prisoners should be locked up in libraries.
As to Edelman podcasts, surely that would be considered cruel and unusual.
Movie star/pothead Tommy Chong, Vegas titty-bar-impressario-turned- rackateer Rick Rizzolo and Barry Bonds' steriod supplier Victo Conte have all been recent guests at Taft. Maybe Stodder's silver lining is that he can beef up his celebrity publicist skills while he's inside.
Actually, Tommy Chong's book is pretty good. I'm fortunate that someone has written a recent account of life inside that place.
Putney, I detect the teensiest bit of smugness in your comment. Truly, you need to go onto the prison talk website. It will sober you up.
There are lots of lessons in my experience. But the biggest, most obvious lesson is the one remarked upon the least. Hourly billing is a hazard. I'm surprised it's still practiced after what I went through. There must be some overwhelming financial imperative that firms would continue to put their employees at risk this way.
Do you or your employees fill out your timesheets moment-by-moment? Day-by-day? Or are you like almost everyone at Fleishman-Hillard during my tenure and wait to fill them out until the last few hours before billing closes? How accurate are those entries? If you have a supervisor who won't bother to fill out his own timesheet but bills accounts and expects the company to be paid, who makes the call as to what time you should put down for him? Do you? Does someone who reports to you?
Applying the standards of jurisprudence in my case to you, you are a potential felon if:
-- There is any conflict between time entries from two different people, and you are their supervisor, especially if any effort is made to correct those conflicts and omissions.
-- You take it upon yourself to correct your boss' omissions -- or, as in my case, if someone who reports to you does so.
Does your company permit these corrections to be made, in fact encourage them to be made? Then, you're in the clear, right? Since everyone knows you were acting in good faith, and will say so if asked.
Well, no. You will suddenly find a practice that you were trained to perform redefined as "rogue" behavior, and, like that voice on Jim Phelps' tape in Mission: Impossible, your company "will disavow any knowledge of your actions."
In the wake of my case, the only safe practice with regard to hourly billing is to lock down timesheets at the end of each day, and allow no exception for any corrections. That's just for starters. That billing by the hour is still done is a testament to the media and industry trades completely missing the point about the Fleishman case.
If you're still feeling smug after reading this, congratulations.
By the way, I dropped my hat when I was out on the lake. Could you please walk out there and get it for me?