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Ad Hominem (or Shoot the Messenger)

Useful article in the New York Times of June 9 that included the following clause: “… (the client) allowed him to fall into a trap by focusing on the identity of the whistle-blower rather than the accusations the whistle-blower made against the company.” This personal observation, the truthfulness of which I am not prepared to examine, of the son of an investigator that performed investigative work in China superficially intimates a real and all-too-human tendency on the part of high managerial agents (and many others), readily verifiable through good faith examination of professional and personal experiences, to focus on that which impacts them personally before that which impacts their employer. This hazardous tone at the top reinforces the lifelong egoism of careerists, young and old(er), such that their corporate employer, notwithstanding the person-hood status granted this type of entity under U.S. law, remains quiet, active nominally as a generous paymaster and legally as a shield from liability but not active as an enforcer of ethics and honest dealing.

Unfortunately, I have investigated alleged financial crimes brought to my clients’ senior management by whistleblowers with an agenda that discolored the truthfulness of their allegations. The fact-finders’ duty to assess the argument (and not the lawyer) is the guiding idea, but the issue of bias puts at risk the persuasiveness of the argument (and the reputation of the lawyer). Ideally, claims should be investigated independently of their source, however with resources, including budgets and schedules tighter than necessary, the dynamics of economics come into play; i.e., why waste resources on an examination of the claims from an inherently unreliable source. For example, it is way cheaper and efficient (in the short-term) to pooh-pooh allegations of widespread bribery and kickbacks from a disgruntled ex-employee on his/her documented work history of needing development than to support the necessary resources to discover the truthfulness of these allegations.

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