Anchoring Against the Slippery Slope: A Candid Interview with Rashmi Airan

Anchoring Against the Slippery Slope: A Candid Interview with Rashmi Airan

“In December 2014, I was across from my 10-year-old son at a high-top table, sitting knee-to-knee and as I looked into his eyes I said: ‘Today, Mommy had to plead guilty to a federal crime.’"

I stumbled upon Rashmi Airan’s LinkedIn profile while doing some research on companies and prospects one recent Friday afternoon.  Because I was focused on the compliance area, Rashmi’s profile kept getting recommended to me, so I clicked on her LinkedIn profile picture, and am so glad that I did.  Rashmi’s professional history and her life story are mesmerizing and with each layer of the onion I peeled back, I wanted to discover more.  So, I sent Rashmi a LinkedIn connection request and followed that up with a message for a quick discovery call.  We agreed after that call to spend more time together to interview her and share her fascinating story and more importantly her mantra-like message of ethical vigilance.  After spending time in a federal prison and a Florida County Jail for unethical activity, Rashmi evangelizes this concept, in the hopes of helping others avoid her fate.

Darin Hartley (DH):  Can you please tell me about your background and upbringing?

Rashmi Airan (RA):  I am the eldest of three daughters from a first-generation Indian family.  The pressure to succeed and to strive for perfection because of these and other factors drove me to be the best at everything I pursued.   I wanted the perfect family, the perfect children, the perfect community, and the perfect career.   I wanted financial success.  With this financial success, I knew I would be able to pursue my philanthropic needs in the Miami community where I lived.  My father came to the United States with $8 and ultimately achieved great success alongside my mother in engineering, real estate, and, later, as a practicing attorney.  My parents’ success drove my need for achievement even more.  It burned like a furnace inside me and is part of the reason I have had many career successes.

DH:  What was the arc of your career?

RA:  I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina and my post-graduate work from Columbia Law School.  After working briefly at Morgan Stanley, I graduated as a Kent Scholar from law school and then worked for several major firms across the country.  Eventually, I started a small private practice in south Florida. 

DH:  What inspired you to become a lawyer?

RA: My biggest inspiration was my Dad.  He is a phenomenal lawyer.  As an engineer, he was asked to wear a wire to help prosecute a corrupt city official, and after that, my Dad got his J.D.  I was so fascinated with this story and the fact my Dad got his law degree, I wanted to follow in his footsteps. 

Rashmi then said, “I am not sure that the practice of law was the right one for me.  To be a great lawyer, you really need to be detail-oriented.  I thrive on people skills and networking and influencing people.  In the practice of law, you write a contract but do not have to leverage any people skills.  As a lawyer, I loved being in court.  I loved helping the client solve problems, but did not necessarily enjoy pouring over the details of a contract.”

DH:  You had a successful and growing private practice.  What happened?

RA:  You are right.  My private practice was growing, but I wanted to gain more clients, work, and revenue.  In mid-October 2007, I was introduced to a real estate developer in south Florida who was looking for a local lawyer to act as a Closing Attorney on some condos he was selling.  I was to be the closing agent and coordinate the transactions with the banks for approval.  The problem was that he was getting money back to the condo buyers as incentives, which was not documented in the HUD documents sent to the bank.  As a closing attorney, if I sign off that there was no cash going back to the buyer, and there was by creative means, I am liable for that.

DH:  From the initial meeting with the unknowingly unscrupulous real estate developer, can you describe the timeline and major events that followed?

RA:

  • October 2007 - I met the real estate developer.
  • Through March 2009 – I completed closings for him in Tampa and Palm Beach.
  • Spring 2011 – The FBI knocked on my door; I let them in and spoke to them for four hours without a lawyer. You’re not told in law school that when the FBI comes to you, you can wait to talk with them with your lawyer present.  The FBI was showing me documents from 2007 and 2008 asking me detailed questions about them.  They left me with a subpoena for documents.
  • June 2013 – The FBI gathered enough evidence for a grand jury subpoena.
  • By October of 2013, the seriousness of the situation became clear.
  • April 2014 – I was indicted.
  • August 2014 – The discovery phase progressed for a long time. During the discovery phase, in August 2014, I made the decision to change my plea to guilty.  I accepted that I was wrong.
  • December 19, 2014 - I met with government and made my official plea.
  • June 16, 2015 – I was sentenced.
  • August 17, 2015 – I surrendered.
  • December 28, 2015, through January 2016 – I was in the Pinellas County Jail, while I waited to testify in a case.
  • February 5, 2016 – I was released. Most of my time spent in FCI Coleman Camp in Coleman, Florida (northwest of Orlando).  Because I testified I got an early release.

DH:  You got an early release.  Can you talk about what your original sentence was?

RA:  I was sentenced to 366 days in federal prison.  I have a $19M judgment against future earnings, I am on probation for three years, and 200 hours of community service.  I cannot work in real estate or law business through my probation period.

DH:  You have been through a lot.  What were the toughest things that happened to you?

RA:  This whole experience has been frightening and enlightening.  There were several things that were extremely tough for me.

  • Coming to terms with my actions being illegal.
  • Mustering the courage to make phone calls to over 300 of my closest friends, peers, and colleagues to tell them exactly what I did. It was heart-wrenching each time I did this.  However, 180 of these people found the time to write and send character letters on my behalf to the judge for consideration.  Some of these same people participated in a character witness video, produced by Billy Corbin, which was invaluable.
  • Surrendering myself to the federal marshals. The whole intake process at the federal prison is mentally debilitating and humiliating.  You hand over all personal effects, get DNA samples taken, get issued prison clothing, get handcuffed, and then get embedded with more than 400 strangers in a single day. 
  • Being separated from my children.

DH:  What do you want other people to know because of what happened to you?

RA:  I was lucky enough to recently do a TED Talk.  It was an amazing experience.  The big takeaway from my presentation was to always practice ethical vigilance.   You always must listen to your inner voice and respond based on what you are hearing.  Here are the steps to practicing ethical vigilance.

  • Pause
  • Listen to inner voice
  • Reflect
  • Do an ethical reality check
  • Make the best conscious decision you can make that you sense is right
  • No matter the consequence

For example, if you are working in a law firm, and you are asked to do something wrong, no matter the consequence, you shouldn’t do it.    As a lawyer of my own firm, I made some choices related to keeping my business afloat, which ultimately led to me seeing it sink.

DH:  What does the future hold for Rashmi Airan?

RA:  I feel it is my life’s mission to share my story with others in the hopes that they learn from it.  I recently spoke at a new charter high school, SLAM, (backed by PitBull) approximately 100 students about the message of ethical vigilance.  It is never too early to learn this message and incorporate it into one’s daily life.  I am also speaking a lot at Fortune 500™ companies, law firms, trade association conferences and event, and graduate schools about this topic.  I have been asked to consult on the issue of ethics, compliance, and the impact on organizational behavior at a multi-national level for corporations.  I have been accredited to teach a Florida Bar CLE course on Ethics for lawyers and am in the process of submitting for CLE ethics course approval in other states.

You can see what I am up to at my Website www.rashmiairan.com.

 


Has this article made you think about your current ethics training?  Do you have questions about your current ethics and compliance training program? Contact us and we can work with you to make recommendations to augment and/or improve your current offering.

Syntrio is a leader in both the ethics and compliance field, as well as human resources and employment law, and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of compliance violations within the organization. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards compliance program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our ethics and code of conduct online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your company!

 

Written by Darin Hartley, Director of Marketing

Gender Discrimination: This is Still a Thing

Gender Discrimination: This is Still a Thing

According to a May 12, 2017, American Lawyer article, Proskauer Rose is the latest in a long string of large law firms to be hit with a massive Gender Discrimination lawsuit. It is difficult to comprehend why this type of behavior persists in an era where female professionals (and professional school students) outnumber their male counterparts. That said, this latest lawsuit confirms what everyone already knew: this type of behavior perpetuates throughout the "old boys networks" of medical, legal and accounting firms and is not going away.

The complaint against Proskauer Rose alleges that a female partner in the firm was paid less than her male counterparts, subjected to an environment where harassment on the basis of sex was tolerated, and the plaintiff's efforts to take on a greater leadership role within the firm were rebuffed. Important to note, Proskauer Rose has a massive labor and employment law department that advises companies of all sizes on how to avoid these types of lawsuits. Suffice to say, the old term "practice what you preach" has never been a hallmark of law firms or their counterparts in the accounting or medical professions.


Need anti-discrimination training?   Check out Syntrio's courses.


As a male legal professional, I'll be the first to admit I don't think enough about the impact that gender discrimination has on professions and the economy as a whole. Even as someone who has spent a career advising employers on how to ensure that they stay out of these sort of situations, one tends to forget that gender discrimination is alive and real in the year 2017. It is quite sad that it takes a story like this to bring back into focus how widespread a problem gender discrimination in the workforce is.

I was discussing this issue with my wife in the car a couple of days ago, and the discussion led to her telling me about a story she had just heard regarding a professional acquaintance who was denied promotion to partner and was told outright that she wasn't a good fit for promotion because she 1) had a husband who made more than enough money; and 2) was likely to need too much time off to bear and raise children. I told my wife if this happened to her I would advise her to quit and sue the employer immediately.

The Proskauer Rose story and the one I just told highlight the stark contrast between "old boys networks" and forward-thinking employers who are invoking mandatory paid parental leave policies for parents of both sexes. The need for reform in gender discrimination is beyond ripe in that a great many female talents are being held back in their careers and denied the opportunity to advance professional thought forward because their bosses are stuck in an era that has long since passed. There is quantifiable data on the value derived from having professional leaders of both sexes, and an opportunity for increased diversity programs to prevent this sort of behavior from being allowed to perpetuate.


Has this article made you think about your current anti-discrimination training?  Do you have questions about your current compliance training program? Contact us and we can work with you to make recommendations to augment and/or improve your current offering.

Syntrio is a leader in both the ethics and compliance field, as well as human resources and employment law, and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of compliance violations within the organization. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards compliance program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our ethics and code of conduct online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your company!

 

Written by Jonathan Gonzalez,  Esq., Senior Syntrio Counsel & Advisory Board Member

Don’t Take the Bait! Phishing Scams Drive Most Recent Wave of Global Ransomware Attacks

Don’t Take the Bait! Phishing Scams Drive Most Recent Wave of Global Ransomware Attacks

Last year, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles paid $17,000 to unlock files after an attack that crippled a large portion of its computer systems.

The Wall Street Journal and many other news outlets are reporting massive global ransomware attacks today (May 12, 2017).  This series of cyberattacks is freezing computer systems and disrupting businesses, including more than a dozen hospitals and health facilities in the England and Spain.  The malware known as WannaCry or Wanna Decryptor targets vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows systems associated with a March 14th patch.

Beyond the disruption caused by this malware, some companies ultimately pay “ransom” to recover their computer systems.   Last year, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles paid $17,000 to unlock files after an attack that crippled a large portion of its computer systems.  So, if the disruption, lost staff hours, and frustrations aren’t enough, some companies are also paying a ransom to restore their computer systems.

Kaspersky Labs, an antivirus vendor, said the malware has shown up in 74 countries but Russia has taken the brunt of the attacks.  Antivirus vendor Avast says it has detected the malware in more than 57,000 samples.


Check out Syntrio's extensive library of cybersecurity and data privacy training.


How are companies exposed to these malware attacks?  Typically, this occurs when hackers trick someone into opening what appears to be an apparent legitimate or innocuous file that contains the malicious software.  This is called phishing.   In this scenario, the person who opened the file’s computer is corrupted.  But the fun doesn’t stop there.  WannaCry is also a worm, so it will infect all other computers on the user’s network, which aren’t protected against the vulnerability.

How can you help your company minimize this risk?  Provide anti-phishing and safe computing training to all your staff.  It’s harder to get caught with malware or ransomware if you don’t take the bait in the first place.


Has this article made you think about your current cybersecurity or data privacy training program?  Do you have questions about your current compliance training program? Contact us and we can work with you to make recommendations to augment and/or improve your current offering.

Syntrio is a leader in both the ethics and compliance field, as well as human resources and employment law, and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of compliance violations within the organization. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards compliance program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our ethics and code of conduct online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your company!

 

Written by Darin Hartley, Director of Marketing, Syntrio, Inc.

You Can’t Teach Old Dogs New Tricks and You Can’t Discriminate Against 40-plus Private or Federal Sector Employees

You Can’t Teach Old Dogs New Tricks and You Can’t Discriminate Against 40-plus Private or Federal Sector Employees

Most people are familiar with The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA).  It protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. The ADEA's protections apply to both employees and job applicants. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training. The ADEA permits employers to favor older workers based on age even when doing so adversely affects a younger worker who is 40 or older.

It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on age or for filing an age discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the ADEA.

Check out Syntrio's Age Discrimination Infographic for some data, which may surprise you.

 


Syntrio's Anti-Discrimination training educates your staff on all protected classes.  We also have a course focused on the ADEA: Preventing Age Discrimination.


The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.

ADEA protects the affected group of employees in areas including:

  • Benefits
  • Apprenticeship Programs
  • Job Notices and Advertisements
  • Pre-employment Inquiries

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) this week announced the latest edition of its federal sector Digest of Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEO Digest), which is available on the EEOC’s website.

This edition (Fiscal Year 2017, Volume 2) features a special article entitled, “Age Discrimination: An Overview of the Law and Recent Commission Decisions.” This comprehensive article discusses the analysis of age discrimination claims and recent case law – including U.S. Supreme Court decisions and Commission decisions.

This digest includes summaries from seven different ADEA cases ruled on by the EEOC in the federal sector including cases by plaintiffs against the following organizations:

  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of the Interior
  • United State Postal Service
  • Department of the Treasury
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of the Army

Of course, all discrimination against protected classes is illegal and morally wrong.  This most recent update by the EEOC demonstrates how important prevention of age discrimination is in the federal sector also.


Has this article made you think about the current training you provide related to age discrimination?  Do you have questions about your current compliance training program? Contact us and we can work with you to make recommendations to augment and/or improve your current offering.

Syntrio is a leader in both the ethics and compliance field, as well as human resources and employment law, and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of compliance violations within the organization. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards compliance program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our ethics and code of conduct online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your company!

 

Written by Darin Hartley, Director of Marketing, Syntrio, Inc.

Why the Tyler Clementi Bill is Being Reintroduced in 2017

Why the Tyler Clementi Bill is Being Reintroduced in 2017

April 27, 2017

U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), along with Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI), reintroduced legislation aimed at reducing bullying and harassment that affects one in five students at colleges and universities across the country. The Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act of 2017 would require institutions of higher education to establish policies to prohibit harassment based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion. The bill also establishes a grant program to support campus anti-harassment activities and programs. This pending legislation is named after Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University who took his own life after his roommate and another student invaded his privacy and harassed him over the Internet.

Isn't this kind of awareness and training already required on college campuses?

The Clery Act requires all higher education institutions to receive training on sexual assault, dating, and domestic violence and stalking. Clery Act training educates faculty/staff members about sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, and stalking, as well as how the university prohibits such offenses and employee responsibilities to respond. 

So, current Clery Act and Title IX training is more focused on preventing sexual violence, which is absolutely a necessity. The proposed new legislation expands the boundaries of this training into anti-harassment and anti-bullying.


Want to learn about Syntrio's Campus Essentials suite of courses?


You can read an overview of the legislation here.

I have responsibility for Clery Act & Title IX training at my higher education institution. What does it mean for me?

Whether or not the Tyler Clementi Anti-Harassment Bill gets passed, with the increased number of harassment, bullying, and cyberbullying incidents, doesn't it make sense to proactively initiate these kinds of programs on campuses now? Hundreds of thousands of new college freshmen are just about to inundate your schools with limitless hopes and dreams for the fall semester. As a leader on your campus, shouldn't you lean forward and initiate this kind of training regardless of the bill's outcome.

Want information on the Tyler Clementi Foundation?


Do you have questions about your current compliance training program at your college or university? Contact us and we can work with you to make recommendations to augment and/or improve your current offering.

Syntrio is a leader in both the ethics and compliance field, as well as human resources and employment law, and is prepared to help your company implement a compliance program aimed at reducing the potential impact of compliance violations within the organization. Syntrio takes an innovative philosophy towards compliance program design and strives to engineer engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking content. Contact www.syntrio.com for more information about our ethics and code of conduct online courses and remember to follow us on Facebook, TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your company!  Don't forget to register for our upcoming May 18, 2017 free Webinar entitled "Training for the Compliance Triathlon"   

Written by Darin Hartley, CPLP Fellow, Syntrio Director of Marketing