Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"Honor, Integrity and Playing by the Rules" out of style, as Ratner says, "No one will care what we had to do to make it happen"

In the big New York magazine feature yesterday on the Barclays Center, arena developer Bruce Ratner was quoted by Will ("Bruce-Ratner-was-affable-to-me") Leitch:
Ratner doesn’t worry about his personal legacy; once, during another meeting, he pointed to famous buildings nearby and noted that no one knows the names of the people who built them. The world is a “long, big place,” he said. One hundred years from now, “Brooklyn is going to be an epicenter of this country, and this place will be at the middle of that. No one will care what we had to do to make it happen.”
I agreed that people 100 years down the road won't care, but the point is a distraction: the Atlantic Yards towers and arena that Ratner builds likely won't exist.

The real issue, as commenters on New York's web site, Brownstoner, and DDDB pointed out, to quote "Montrose Morris," is this:
Yeah, that really is an outrageous statement. So I guess the ends justify the means. That's a slippery slope, and if that comment is his legacy, well, I'd rather be nobody, too.
(Yes, this is part of the Culture of Cheating.)
Ends justify means: Independent Compliance Monitor

The list of ends-justify-the-means examples is long, but let's take just one example: the Independent Compliance Monitor promised under the "historic" Community Benefits Agreement Ratner (CBA) signed in 2005. It doesn't exist.

The Rev. Herbert Daughtry, a CBA signatory, signed a 2/8/06 affidavit in the first Atlantic Yards lawsuit, regarding demolitions:
This agreement obligates the Project's sponsors to provide a host of benefits, including extensive job training programs and hiring, and contract-award preferences, that are intended to attack endemic unemployment and underemployment in the historically poorest communities within Brooklyn.
He added:
The Community Benefits Agreement establishes carefully defined bench marks and creates joint developer-community organs to monitor and enforce the developer's compliance with the obligations that are imposed by the agreement.
How exactly has that gone? The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on 1/18/12:
Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry Sr., founder of the Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance, the group responsible for the “Community Facilities and Amenities” aspect of the CBA, said he feels that FCR has already taken care of its obligations under the CBA.
“The point is that I feel, whether they [FCR] have reneged on promises, I’m not concerned about it,” explained Daughtry. “I’m fairly certain that they’ll respond to their negotiated positions.”
Part of a pattern

The cover story in last week's New York Observer was Our Cheating Hearts: Honor, Integrity and Playing by the Rules are All Out of Style: Don’t be the last honest sucker on Earth!. Patrick Clark's article began:
“I guess I’m not as cynical as you are,” Neil Barofsky, former watchdog for the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program and presently the busiest cynic caught up in the government’s entanglement with the banking business, told The Observer.

In a time when everyone seems to be cheating—and most everyone getting away with it—we’d put it to Mr. Barofsky that there doesn’t seem to be much percentage in honest behavior. If Wall Street executives, tween idols and journalistic heavyweights are shirking the rules to get ahead, doesn’t it make sense for the commoners to do the same?

It was the third week in July, and Mr. Barofsky was promoting the publication of Bailout, his insider account of Washington’s response to the financial crisis. Three days prior, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York had revealed that in April 2008, a Barclays employee called the regulator and explained that the bank was fudging its Libor submissions. “You’d think someone would pick up the phone to the Department of Justice and say, ‘We believe there’s a global conspiracy to fix interest rates,’” Mr. Barofsky said. “Clearly no one did that.”
The Observer, which once reported more skeptically on Atlantic Yards, has not reported on the lack of an Independent Compliance Monitor.

Who cheats? The advantaged

The Observer article suggests that well off, educated, and creative people cheat more:
Unethical behavior seems to be driven by rank—the more status you have, the less dependent you’re likely to be on social relationships—and self-focus. Meanwhile, watching other people cheat changes our understanding of what’s socially acceptable. Successful people are more likely to cheat, increasing the chances that they’ll become still more successful. And, we suppose, increasing the chances that they’ll be surrounded by successful people who are more likely to cheat themselves.
Why cheat? It's worth it

The Observer article suggests the benefits of cheating drive the practice:
“What we’ve seen is clear gray areas and big rewards,” David Callahan, co-founder of the think tank Demos and the author of The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead, told The Observer. A few hundredths of a second can be the difference between first and second, but “there’s an enormous difference between gold and silver when it comes to endorsements,” Mr. Callahan said.
What’s true in sports is true in school or finance. In a study published by the whistleblower practice at law firm Labaton Sucharow last month, 30 percent of 500 financial services pros surveyed said that bonus considerations increased the pressure to behave unethically.
Wouldja think this kind of pressure completely bypasses big real estate?

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