As entrepreneurs, we know the value of adhering to ethical principles to gain and maintain the trust of our customers, employees and peers.
There will always be times in our work life (and personal life) when we are faced with challenges to those ethical principles. What we do when we are faced with challenges, how we respond, is how we are judged.
No one is perfect. But by being honest, transparent, by actively learning from mistakes and avoiding undue influence, we show integrity. The is why we can appreciate the sentiment of President Donald Trump's ethics executive order "Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees."
The order requires such appointees to pledge to not accept gifts from lobbyists, engage in lobbying with respect to the agency appointed to, among other commitments.
With Trump's ethics executive order in mind, we're watching lobbyist Makan Delrahim.
According to a report by David Sirota for the International Business Times and cited reports from Reuters and the Wall Street Journal, Delrahim has been selected by the Trump Administration to head up the U.S. Justice Department's Antitrust Division.
The Justice Department's Antitrust Division's mission, according to its website, is "to promote economic competition through enforcing and providing guidance on antitrust laws and principles."
An example of the actions taken by this division is the recent civil antitrust lawsuit it filed to prevent the health insurance corporation Anthem, Inc. from acquiring Cigna Corp.—a move the lawsuit claimed would reduce competition in the health insurance industry.
So why is Delrahim on our radar?
His firm was paid $370,000 in lobbying fees by Anthem between 2015 and 2016 for work connected to the health insurer's effort to acquire Cigna.
And while a U.S. District Court blocked the acquisition and ruled in favor of the lawsuit (which was supported by the District of Columbia as well as California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee and Virginia), the fact that Delrahim is being appointed to head the antitrust division is cause for concern.
It's been five months since Delrahim has been listed as an Anthem lobbyist, according to Sirota's report. He's currently serving as deputy White House counsel for President Trump.
"News of Delrahim’s appointment to the nation’s top antitrust job comes weeks after Anthem lawyers told a Delaware judge that they are relying on the Trump administration to settle the antitrust division’s current lawsuit blocking its Cigna merger. Between those court statements and Delrahim’s appointment, President Trump had a personal telephone call with Anthem’s CEO, Joseph Swedish. Anthem gave $100,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee, and after Trump assumed office, the Securities and Exchange Commission helped Anthem quash a shareholder resolution designed to force it to disclose its lobbying expenditures."
But to those who follow D.C. politics, is Trump's appointment all that surprising?
Any lack of integrity shown in this appointment by Trump must also be considered against the lack of integrity of his predecessors, including former President Barack Obama.
Recall Obama's choice of Tom Wheeler to head up the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In an article published by The New Yorker in 2013 titled "Obama's Bad Pick: A Former Lobbyist At The F.C.C.", author John Cassidy details the concerns about Wheeler's integrity in the wake of the failures of the FCC (including rubber-stamp-style approval of consolidations among major telecom and cable companies under the Telecommunications Act).
From the article:
"In addition to being a former lobbyist, Wheeler has been a big campaign contributor to President Obama, giving $38,500 of his own money between 2008 and 2011, and also bundling together contributions from friends and associates. In the 2008 campaign, he raised between two hundred thousand and five hundred thousand dollars in this way for Obama, according to OpenSecrets.org, and he then led the Obama transition team focussed on science, technology, and the arts. During last year’s campaign, he raised more than five hundred thousand dollars for Team Obama."
In fact, OpenSecrets has an entire list of "Obama Officials who have Spun through the Revolving Door." You can find it here.
When we so often see corruption in our political system, it can become difficult to find examples of integrity.
This is exactly why we—as citizens, as consumers, as employees, as entrepreneurs and business owners—should keep a watchful eye for cronyism and denounce it where it crops up.
Regardless of who holds the office of the President of the United States, we must hold our government accountable to the standards we expect to practice in our lives and in business. It's up to us to make the change we want, to create the world we want to live and work in.
When we leave it up to politicians in D.C. to make decisions for us, without accountability, we are giving up our liberty.
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