Saturday, May 21, 2005

Lunch With A Convicted Felon & Former International Fugitive....Enlightening!

Last week I had lunch with a convicted felon and former fugitive. The funny thing is that I didn't even know it at the time. It's not like they have to wear a sign or anything. So why am I telling you this?

The lunch was actually at a Financial Planning Association quarterly educational meeting - yes, I know some of you are already thinking it makes sense....lunch with a bunch of Orange County brokers and advisors - chances are pretty high one of them has got to be a felon! Of course I am joking, most of my colleagues are fine advisors and of the highest ethic, excluding the wirehouse brokers.....

Ironically the individual I had lunch with was not shy about his past. Though he didn't tell me his story at lunch, he did tell he was to be the speaker for the afternoon session, the ethics session. Yes, a convicted felon and former fugitive from the law was to be the speaker to the FPA and his topic - ETHICS. Again, some of you are thinking to yourselves "how appropriate!" In all seriousness, I knew the speaker had a bad past, I was told he was a "fallen" CFP and that his story was being communicated to us so that we wouldn't fall into the same trap.

Lunch with Patrick was good, he seemed like a great guy, then I heard his story.

Here's a guy who crossed the line while a broker for the Oklahoma treasury and in the most basic sense stole millions of dollars (with help from others). He justified the stealing in his mind, even drawing up elaborate flip charts to convince his loved ones that what he was doing was legal. Of course, what he was doing was not legal and it caught up to him. One day he recieved a call from Ted Koppel (actually a message on his machine), he and his buddies were being investigated. After fealing the heat and refusing to face up to his moral and ethical failures Patrick packed up his family and ran from the FBI - to Costa Rica. To make a long story short Patrick was on the run for three years, in the process destroying his family and squandering all the money he stole - and then, he turned himself over to the authorities in Costa Rica. He finally faced up to the facts that it was his own moral and ethical failures that led him down this road, it was nobody elses fault, only his.

Not all is perfect for Patrick now, his wifed divorced him (imagine that!) and he owes the government nearly $4 million that cannot be dismissed in a bankruptcy. But not all is bad for this one time International Fugitive. He discovered a knack for public speaking and now tells his story all over the country. He told me he has over 160 events this year. You probably didn't get the whole gist of his talk with us from this brief interlude, but the moral of his story was simple - crossing that ethical threshold isn't easy to do, but once you do it, it gets easier and easier. I encourage you to listen to Patrick's story in person one day if you get the chance, it is quite amazing, and entertaining. He truly is a man transformed, in fact he is the ethics chair at several prominent universities. The last irony is that after his talk to the FPA he recieved a standing ovation. Why is that ironic? Well, I've never seen a standing ovation for any speaker at an FPA event, the first time was for an convicted felon and former international fugitive....perhaps I am just jealous, after all I have spoken for the FPA and I didn't get a standing O! Come to think of it, I am not jealous at all, if it takes what Patrick went through to get a standing ovation I'd rather just learn from his mistakes, and go without one.

If you are looking for an incredible speaker, with an amazing story of life change, check out Patrick's website at speaking of ethics.

I like to think I was ethical before Patrick (don't worry I was), but I hope that I am even better afterward. Only in America could lunch with a convicted felon be so honorable.