Joe Paterno, Wang Lijun, and LIBOR
What do a dead football coach, a Chinese bureaucrat, and an interest rate have in common?
Standing up to call out something you see as wrong, even if it brings you down with it.
Say what you will about Joe Paterno, but the bottom line is he took advantage of his personality cult to cover up the crimes of a child rapist for over a decade. He could have done something but didn't. Instead of using his unique position and influence to expose a serious wrong and try to correct it, he hid behind administrative procedures. This guy was Penn State; for all intents and purposes the buck stopped with him. If he really believed strongly enough in exposing the wrong that he knew was occurring, he wouldn't have just sent some emails and made some phone calls. He would have gone to the media, shouted it from a mountaintop or whatever it took to get the word out.
And even after his firing, when the university apparently wasn't willing to hear his story, he should have written it down or recorded it if it was so important. He didn't, and that says to me that he didn't have anything worth saying.
Contrast this with the case of Wang Lijun, a mid-level Chinese bureaucrat who nobly fell on his sword to expose the biggest Chinese political scandal in recent history. Wang figured out some serious stuff was going down with his boss's family, and knew that he would be squelched if he tried to go through conventional channels. So what did he do instead? He drove to the nearest American consulate and shared it all with them. Maybe he was just trying to cover his own ass and perhaps receive political asylum, but he actually accomplished what he set out to do- exposing the misdeeds of his boss's family. Bo Xilai, a man who at one point was a go-ahead to join the nine man committee that runs China, has been purged and his wife is being investigated for murder.
Fingers are going to be pointed for years over thisthing. While I'm not surprised it happened in the first place, why didn't the issue surface earlier? Supposedly the NY Fed and the Bank of England knew about it years ago. How could it be that there was not one person willing to shout loudly enough "hey, this is wrong"?
What would you do if you if you saw something seriously wrong happening at your firm? How far would you go to make sure that wrongs are righted?