In my last blog, I wrote about power and corruption. Well, serendipity! Right after I wrote it I heard about the most exquisite illustration of corruption that I could even have asked for! So I had to revisit the corruption issue just to share.
There has been a legal scandal in a neighboring city here. This scandal involves 75-year-old attorney Melbourne Mills, Jr., who is being investigated because he took a $23.6 million legal fee as part of a fen-phen class action lawsuit in which his 440 clients grossed $80.8 million. I know nothing about legal fees, so maybe that amount was his percentage due. What amazed me was the arrogance with which he defended his position. Instead of citing work hours or contract stipulations to defend his cut of the settlement, he simply said that he has already gone through most of the money, and "couldn't pay it back to former clients even if ordered to do so by a judge." So there.
Furthermore, he told one reporter that $23.6 million may seem like a lot of money, but it's not. [Editor's note: Uh, sorry Mel, but, yeah, it is.] In the news article I read about him, I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn't a piece from The Onion. Here are just a few of the expenditures he cited to explain where all the money went:
- He had to pay $2 million to a former partner who alleged he had been cheated out of fen-phen fees on his partnership draw.
- He had to pay $125,000 to a paralegal to settle a sexual harassment suit in which she accused him of walking around his office in his underwear and trying to grab her.
- He was ordered to pay $900,000 to a former assistant who said she suggested the fen-phen case and that Mills reneged on a promise to reward her with a huge bonus. He is appealing this verdict because [Editor's note: And I am not kidding] he didn't remember the conversation because he was drinking a fifth of bourbon a day at the time. [Editor's note: I almost had to drink a fifth of bourbon after reading the article.]
At this point, I was rolling on the floor wiping tears of laughter from my eyes. THIS is his defense against accusations of ethical misconduct? "I would like to atone for my unethical conduct, but my immoral nature won't allow it." What is behind such an attitude? Is it a combination of years of power combined with an existing character flaw as the posters to my last blog suggested? Or did he just steadily increase his indiscretions throughout his life because he was never called to task for them until now? Another interesting point for discussion.
Oh, and in case you're wondering, while Mel is awaiting judgment on this lawsuit he is dating one of the plaintiffs in the original fen-phen lawsuit.
Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.