Accountability Heroes & Zeros of 2015

blame my upbringing

Back by popular demand!  It’s time for our annual Accountability Heroes and Zeros list!  When we look back at all that was 2015, who was accountable and who wasn’t?  Who provided leadership in a way that sets a good example for others and who didn’t?

As we’ve said before, if we asked you to rattle off a few lack of accountability stories we know you could brainstorm a long list in just seconds.  The good accountability stories are much more difficult, but they are always out there.

Without further ado, here’s our list!

Accountability Zeros of 2015

  • Two words – Bill Cosby – enough said on that one – if you haven’t heard about this, you must be living under a rock.
  • To keep with the theme here, two initials – VW. It is hard to say why, in this day and age of social media where everyone knows everything in seconds, leaders still think they can get away with lies and cover-ups.  Once again, we have proof in a car company.   VW used “defeat devices”, in other words, installed software, to cheat on emissions tests by changing the car’s performance to improve test results.  This included 11 million cars worldwide, 500,000 in the United States.  The result was cars emitting nitrogen oxide pollutants up to 40 times above what is allowed in the U.S.    In the days following the finding, their stock plunged by a third, They announced plans to spend $7.3 billion to fix the emissions issues and they suffered their first quarterly loss in 15 years – a loss over $3.5 billion. Now there’s some accountability!
  • Blue Bell Ice Cream – How disappointing to have a local Texas company hit our list. Seems Blue Bell’s management had been aware of 17 findings of listeria dating back to 2013, and only after 3 deaths and multiple illnesses this year did they slowly begin to take action.  They initiated a partial recall, hoping to minimize commercial damage, only to expand to a total recall after FDA investigations proved the problem was much more widespread.  Sadly lives could have been saved had they been accountable when they were initially aware of the problem.  This also resulted in laying off 1450 of its 3900 employees and furloughing 1400 more.  A very tough consequence for the employees and the small towns in which they worked.  Thankfully, for Blue Bell and ice cream lovers, an outside investor saved them.
  • The “Affluenza” Case – This one has so many people shirking accountability, its’ hard to say who is the worst offender. In 2013, Ethan Couch, a 16-year old from a wealthy family, was driving at high speed while intoxicated.  He killed four people and seriously injured two others.  Here’s where the story gets unreal…in his trial, a psychologist hired as an expert by the defense, testified in court that the teen was a product of “affluenza” and was unable to link his bad behavior with consequences because of his parents taught him that wealth buys privilege. The judge involved gave him a 10-year probated sentence including mandatory time in rehabilitation, also ordering him to avoid using drugs or alcohol or driving.  Fast forward to this month, a Twitter user posted a video of Couch at a party – allegedly playing beer pong – potentially a violation of his parole.  After his inability to reach Couch, his parole officer issued a warrant for his arrest.  With the potential for a new trial and jail time, both Couch and his mother fled.  Thankfully they were captured in Mexico. WOW!  Parents, psychologists, lawyers, judges, even Couch himself all dodging accountability!  There is still a chance of accountability in this long chain of people; we’ll have to watch to see how this goes.

Accountability Heroes of 2015

  • University of Missouri Students and Faculty – After many campus issues, students and faculty had finally lost patience and respect for the leaders of the university where they studied and worked. Many felt that the administration of the university, specifically Timothy Wolfe President of the University of Missouri System, was not hearing their concerns much less trying to resolve them.  After a series of protests, including a hunger strike and a very attention-drawing boycott by the football team, Wolfe stepped down from his position to be followed by Chancellor Loftin at the end of the year.
  • Angela Merkel – She has offered accountable leadership in many areas as a key world leader. She has worked to make sure the Euro holds strength within the EU, working tirelessly to solve the issues with involved countries.  She stood firm making sure Greece was willing to belly up to the bar with austerity plans prior to getting any assistance.   She is also in strong support of the Schengen agreement, which declares a borderless environment between countries in Europe.  And being a woman of her word, when the immigrants started flowing her way, she made sure Germany welcomed them.
  • Bill Tudor Jones – Jones is a billionaire hedge fund manager – you may have seen his TED talk about the disappearing middle-class lifestyle. He talked about the wealth gap that exists in America and that those gaps always get closed.  He stated that, “History shows it usually ends in one of three ways – either higher taxes, revolution or war.”  He went on to say, that “none of those was on his bucket list.”  Recently Fortune wrote about a unique approach Jones is taking to try to fix the growing income inequality.  No, he is not talking about a Robin hood-type plan. What if you could measure companies not purely based on what Wall Street values, but what Main Street values.   Could a list be developed that would conceivably alter corporate behavior? Make companies vie for a spot high on the list?  Jones has formed a non-profit called Just Capital.  Their mission is to research what makes people like or dislike  a corporation and then create an annual list called the Just 1000.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to have companies measured for ethics of top management, quality and price of products or environmental sustainability?  Stay tuned.  A lot more work is needed, but at least he’s taking a leadership role to try to solve a pressing problem without the devastating historical options!

Please feel free to let us know of any accountability stories you’d like us to share in 2016.