People in positions of leadership, especially when they are heavily invested in the venture they lead, resemble parents when the venture is threatened. They tend to be willing to make compromises they would not otherwise consider, and deal with people they would never normally admit to any of their circles if there is the suggestion of greasing the skids.
Sometimes this works. All too often I have been told that someone has a “fixer”. Usually a fixer is mentioned in reference to some government issue. Procurement and enforcement come most frequently to mind. Sometimes the fixer is connected in other ways to non government situations and arrangements where “influence” is thought to be needed.
Sometimes the matter becomes rather sordid, as when the person through whom trouble comes to visit is one with whom the involvement was personally illicit. Governor Spitzer of New York was caught out through an investigation of a call girl operation of which he was a “client”.
Trouble often comes from indirect involvements of someone else in some third party context that did not include you or your company. When your fixer gets caught because some other client of his/hers gets into difficulty, thorough investigation reaches your doorstep via client lists and similar information routes.
All too often you failed to create a cut out so that the fixer’s data base does not lead any investigator to your doorstep. Normal folks don’t appreciate the art of the cut out. Cutouts insulate. That is their purpose.
There do not seem to be cut outs in the matter of Illinois Governor Blagojevich. His sucker list is a tangle that leads to everyone who bought in on any of his deals. They may lead at first to intermediaries, but intermediaries are almost never cut outs. Intermediaries will spill their guts about you to save their own hides. The will do that because you are on their lists. If the intermediary knows who you are, you get caught when the intermediary gets caught, even if you are a level or two removed. To be a cut out, it is necessary that you be totally ignorant of the real people you represent. That total ignorance is the sine qua non of cut out status.
The other issue in this awkward scenario is that when it comes your turn to deal with the prosecutor, what will you do about exposing others of whose misdeeds you have knowledge in order to mitigate your own/your company’s consequences?
Subject matter interlocks magnify problems just as inappropriate personal connections magnify them. And so, a tax audit leads to evidence of a price fixing conspiracy, and insider trading routes also inform about illicit manipulative schemes and stock parking, as well as the back dating of documents. But a lot of that may arise just because of a disgruntled former associate whom you alienated on some issue in which you thought you were serving some lofty principle – I can’t allow people to get away with something like this – it will set a bad precedent – and other such nonsense. Enemies are more expensive than anyone ever realizes. There is never one principle to be served. There are always several principles in play in every matter, and the burden is to assign them the proper priorities.
The point? When you are thinking of “taking a short cut”, to put it nicely, your antennae should tingle with admonitory concerns. Talk with someone who deals with short cuts and their frequent consequences, as well as the alternatives to short cuts in your situation. Your pal at the country club bar is not your go to resource here.