Friday, April 17, 2009

No Free Lunch

The Kansas Supreme Court censured an in-house corporate attorney who ate meals in the company cafeteria (run by an independent vendor) and left without paying. After he had been observed on several occasions, a video camera was installed to catch him. He responded by email when notified of the evidence:

'I am embarrassed and disgusted for myself and apologize to you and the Koch companies. I lied. I stole. I violated the Code of Conduct.

'I can't find any reason for my actions other than I wasn't thinking. I could write paragraphs on what was going through my mind and various excuses for what occurred. But the simple fact is--none of that matters and there is no excuse. I have had to tell my parents, who are here, my wife and my children what I did. I received no sympathy and the same question--why? I have no good answer, but have searched within myself for any other type of behavior that remotely connects to this blatant error in judgment. I can come up with none.

'I understand that I have placed you in a bad position and only you will be able to determine whether you can trust me again. This is an isolated incident and out of character. I encourage you to take a look at my past actions in making your determination.

'I take full responsibility and accountability for this action. I understand that as a legal leader, I am responsible for leading the way towards [sic] integrity and compliance. I failed in this instance. I put this to you in writing because I know and believe that I conduct my actions with honesty, respect and integrity. I will have to prove that again.

'I apologize. With great humility and a heavy heart, I ask you please to consider my apology in determining your course of action.'

The lawyer later wrote disciplinary counsel the following letter:

'I believe it is important that attorneys conduct themselves both in providing services to clients and in their personal affairs in accordance with the requirements of the law. I believe that I should self-report a potential conduct issue under the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct ('Rules').

'I have been employed as in-house counsel by Koch Industries, Inc. and INVISTA located in Wichita, Kansas over the last 6 years. Prior to joining these companies in-house, I practiced in the private law firm arena for 7 years. During the week of September 24, 2007, I was accused by my company of taking lunches from the cafeteria without paying. I initially denied this accusation, but after the company presented me with certain evidence, I admitted that same day (in person and in writing) that due to oversight and time pressure I did not immediately pay for those lunches, but intended to in the future. I have offered to reimburse the cafeteria and my company on several occasions, the first being on September 28, 2007. No other evidence of misconduct was presented to me by my company and I have since been forced to resign my employment.

'I self-report this potential misconduct to you as I feel it is my obligation to do so under the Rules. I welcome the opportunity to meet with appropriate authorities of the Bar Association to answer any further questions you may have regarding this matter.

'If I can provide you with any additional information regarding the nature or circumstances of this self-reporting, I stand willing to cooperate.'

(Mike Frisch)

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Oh this is just getting ridiculous now. How many hours of skilled professional time has been wasted on this? Even the justices of the state Supreme Court got into the act. Have they really nothing better to do with their time than this? If there is a moral question here, it is why these bureaucrats should have been allowed to waste the citizens resources in this way.

When I was in Saigon a decade ago, I walked out of a local restaurant without paying. I was engrossed in conversation just not thinking. The waiter ran after me and I immediately apologized and paid him and even gave him a tip. I’m ashamed to say that this actually happened twice. Should I now self report?

Absurd. Absolutely absurd.


Posted by: FixedWing | Apr 17, 2009 10:54:46 AM

the supreme court of kansas found he engaged in criminal conduct and lied about it; that is contrary to a lawyer's professional and ethical obligations, to put it mildly

Posted by: sidartah | Apr 17, 2009 1:23:39 PM

"I lied. I stole. I violated the Code of Conduct." Seems pretty straight forward and a little different from Stephen's accidental yet multiple failures to pay for his lunch.

Posted by: Jennings | Apr 17, 2009 2:43:41 PM

The Kansas Supreme Court did say that “[t]he Respondent knowingly violated his duty.” The lawyer said a lot of things including that “due to oversight and time pressure I did not immediately pay for those lunches, but intended to in the future.” As I understand it, his was the only evidence as to his state of mind. Did he knowingly steal? That isn’t clear to me.

What is clear was that he was trying to avoid being embarrassed by a published opinion. It is also clear from his written admission that he was earlier trying to avoid being fired. Many people will grovel and admit guilt, whether guilty or not, if it will save their necks. Were his contrite words a statement of the truth or simply an attempt to minimize the sanctions? I don’t think we will ever know the answer to that question.

I stand by my earlier comments. This was just a massive waste of everyone’s time. Each of the players in this farce perpetuated it to justify their actions. The bureaucrats should repay the state coffers for the waste that they have caused.


Posted by: FixedWing | Apr 17, 2009 3:25:41 PM

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