Scott Cacchione’s ‘From Suits to Stripes’ – An Inside Look at the Sometimes Unethical Financial World

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First time author Scott Caccione’s new book “From Suits to Stripes” gives readers a look inside the cutthroat world of the financial industry from an insider who has played the game and is ready talk about it.

Scott Cacchione's new book 'From Suits to Stripes' an inside the cutthroat world of the financial industry

Scott Cacchione

You have to ask yourself, ‘Even if I get through this situation, is it going to come up again?

In the new book “From Suits to Stripes” new author Scott Cacchione will give an inside look at the dog eat dog financial industry and outlines how the pressures of the job can easily lead you into unethical situations.

Cacchione, the former managing director for a Wall Street securities firm, found himself such a situation ------ years ago, and made what he readily admits were wrong decisions against his better judgment and personal code of ethics. He is now paying the price for those indiscretions, but would like to point out that bad decisions and bowing to pressures don’t necessarily reflect immorality on the part of the repentant transgressor.

A question that has been bandied about through the ages is whether the commission of an illegal act committed in a harried time under extreme pressure and in a moment of bad judgment is necessarily the action of an immoral man. In an era when many otherwise honorable people have found themselves making poor decisions when pushed to extremes by job pressures and the continual quest to meet seemingly unattainable quotas and expectations of be the loyal good soldier and company man, many an executive has crossed the line and taken actions they normally would not have.

“The incident made me reflect on how things can seem so black and white when you're outside a situation, and yet so difficult when you're entangled in it,” Cacchione says. “How do we find a framework for addressing ethical issues in our everyday lives? Most of us know the situation where we're asked to do something that makes us uneasy. First, it's important to know what ethics are not. They're not, 'Well everyone else is doing it, so it must be okay.’”

Ethics, he contends, differ greatly from the feelings and comfort zones of individuals.

“They aren't the same as feelings, because many people feel good even though they are doing something wrong,” Cacchione believes. “And often our feelings will tell us it's uncomfortable to do the right thing if it is hard. They're not just following the law. Laws can become ethically corrupt, and there are things strictly allowed by law that we would consider unethical, like some of the activity on Wall Street that led to the financial crisis or our own individual crisis.

"Now I always say the law is the floor, not the ceiling. So how do we determine if we're acting ethically?

"If, at the end of the day, can you say, 'I got all the facts, not just the ones I agreed with?’ can you say you looked at all the options, not just the convenient ones? If you did all those things and answered them honestly, then I can say, ‘I did my very best.’”

Many executives are placed in challenging and compromising positions through the pressures brought about by the demands of employers or stockholders who make demands that call for bending or trampling of their personal ethics. Such situations call for do-or-die professional decisions, Cacchione says, and many times the executive finds himself in a position where he places it all on the line for the sake of meeting the demands of superiors and, seemingly, protecting his lofty position and career path.

“Most of us know the situation where we're asked by a boss to do something that makes us uneasy,” he says, “and these situations can rankle us for years. You also have to be aware that if you work in a place where the culture implicitly, or explicitly, encourages unethical behavior, you're going to face the same quandary over and over.

"You have to ask yourself, ‘Even if I get through this situation, is it going to come up again?’ If the message is, 'Make those numbers no matter what.’ If you find yourself in a moral dilemma, you want to be ruthlessly realistic with yourself and start developing an exit strategy. You're just kidding yourself if you think it won't happen again."

But Cacchione also acknowledges a hard truth that just about everyone in this world knows all too well: “It's easier to have higher ethical standards in good economic times than bad.” To think through an ethical problem, he says, “You must analyze the consequences: Who will be helped by what you do? Who will be hurt? What kind of benefits and harms are we talking about, and how does this look over the long run as well as the short term? But don't make the mistake of assuming that people who have strong principles and never compromise are necessarily ‘better.’”

Cacchione points out that the line between moral courage and caving in to pressure to act against his better judgment is fine. "We often admire this kind of backbone and we are apt to attribute courage to those who run considerable risks in sticking to their guns," Cacchione says. "But some people might stick to their guns - act on their principles, come what may - because they are cowardly. They simply don't want to think through the complications of particular cases and reach for a rule or principle. This represents a refusal to honestly engage with the messiness of human life, while at the same time allowing the person to bask in self-righteousness.”

The perception of ethics change at times, he notes. “So how do I feel now about my ethical quandary? The best I can do, I believe, is use what I've learned as a guideline for how I will address the next moral issue I will inevitably face. I am not perfect, but I can strive to be better, to be good."

Cacchione sees a moral to his personal story and feels it is good for others to hear from a man who has been put through the legal ringer and is now being held accountable for his past indiscretions. “The point is that, yes this man may have gotten wrapped up in something immoral, but the fact of the matter is that he is not necessarily an immoral man, but rather a mortal man who weakened in moment of duress. A man who is eager to restore the trust of others as an astute business man who made mistakes out of bad judgment, not immorality.”

Scott Cacchione is an investment banker who was sentenced to 60 months in federal prison for his role in a $100 million fraud scheme involving the purchase of an NHL hockey team. His book “From Suits to Stripes” published by All Access Placement is set to be released in 2013, upon Cacchione’s release from prison.

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Brad Silver
All Access Placement
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