My, My, My . . . what a mess—the jury is back and proclaimed that Martha Stewart lied. She was convicted of obstructing an investigation relating to insider trading—a charge never levied at her. She (and her legal team) made lots of mistakes. Probably her first was even speaking to anyone from the government without fully understanding that she was a target coupled with the simple fact she started with the wrong attorney.
When someone, anyone, is attempting to portray another as a criminal, you need criminal representation—not corporate. It was downhill from there. You may think, “Why get a criminal attorney unless you have something to hide . . . or are a criminal?” The answer is quite simple—unless you really are a criminal, you will most likely not know what should be said and not said. Your representative is in the same boat.
Will Stewart appeal the verdict? Yes. Will she succeed in overturning the verdict? Most likely, no. Will she go to jail? Probably. Should she? No. Was she really presumed innocent until proven guilty? I don’t think so. I can’t help but wonder—did she truly have a jury of her peers? Just how many millions were spent to bring her down? Did she really lie? The jury said so. Should she have? No.
The Lying Game
Is lying common? Of course . . . it’s at all levels, including the government. Do I support it? Absolutely not. But is Ms. Martha alone? I don’t think so. When was the last time you were pulled over for speeding and you fudged and said you didn’t know how fast you were going? Is the height and weight correct on your driver’s license? How about some of the values on those charitable deductions claimed on your tax return? All are examples of lying to the government.
If the government decided to put any of us under a microscope that has a bottomless checkbook to support probing, I suspect that very few, if any, of us would pass squeaky clean. Lying is not a good thing. It goes on and anyone who feels that the government and that the judicial systems are 100 percent honest needs to come out of lala-land.
As an author, speaker and columnist on workplace issues, my email was bombarded from readers about Martha Stewart after the conviction. Some I’ve heard from in the past, others new voices. All were women. All said basically that the outcome stinks; that Martha was targeted because she was, well, Martha; that there are gender issues at play (many wrote that they like to see a list of men who’ve been prosecuted and jailed under the same circumstances); that it’s OK and assumed that men will be aggressive and cheered for been assertive and women—the Marthas, will be labeled as bitches, egomaniacs, arrogant and selfish. One emailer wrote, “I wish I had a dime for every lie from the Government—including our elected representatives . . . I’d be wealthy indeed.”
Interesting, Martha’s former testifying friend (I assume that she is a former at this point), Mariana Pasternak’s hubby Bart is a vascular surgeon. He just happened to own 100,000 thousands of shares of the ImClone stock that seeded Martha’s misadventures at the same time. He sold 10,000 shares within a day of Stewart selling hers and dumped the rest a few weeks later. Did the Feds visit him about “insider trading”? Did he lie as to why he sold them if asked?
One juror felt Stewart was the poster CEO for all corporate scandal and the Slaying of Martha was an overdue victory for the little guy. I wonder if Kenneth Lay (Enron), Bernie Ebbers (WorldCom) and Joe Naccio (Qwest) are sleeping better these days knowing that Martha’s conviction may just take some of the sting out of the incredible depth of their dishonesty, mismanagement and corporate misbehavior? These men lost vast amounts of money, cheated creditors, wiped out employees’ pensions, devastated communities, and caused thousands of men and women to lose their jobs and to lose their life savings. Stewart being the poster CEO for corporate scandal . . . please.
The Visibility Factor
Can high visibility be a handicap to one’s career? Since the mid-eighties, my research has shown that the more visible you are and the more successful you are, or perceived to be, the more often people will try to take you down. The thousands of women and men that I’ve interviewed over the years on the topics of sabotage in the workplace, failure, success and rebuilding confidence have expressed as much.
Failure is also a bigger handicap for women than for men. Men often view failure as a fact of life . . . get up and get going again. Women often view it as being tainted for the rest of your life, cooties, and want to withdraw (Woman to Woman 2000, New Horizon Press).
Does that mean that if you are successful, others will target you . . . by prosecutors if it could be politically smart for them to do so? Maybe. Readers have shared that that is exactly what they endured along their career paths. As women, successful and visible women, there were plenty non-supporters tossing roadblocks their way.
Are there different rules for women than there are for men when it comes to success, visibility, even celebrity? I think so. All the women who responded to previous columns on this topic felt there are. For women, high visibility can be a handicap. Expect pot shots and innuendos hurled in your direction.
What’s the lesson? —see the first paragraph—and if you are a Big Shot, if anyone shows up from the government, keep your mouth shut until you know and understand what “it” is all about. We all know that Martha is a tough cookie—one who wears an apron. She made lots of mistakes, and yes, she shouldn’t have lied. But being treated as a criminal? I don’t think so.