Stein Shares Wit and Wisdom
Actor, author, economist, and pop culture icon Ben Stein entertained attendees with his trademark wry wit in a joke-filled keynote address on Tuesday. He provided a biting assessment of the U.S. economic crisis and the government’s handling of the issue as well as more general advice on how to “fix America.”
Stein is best known to many for his role as the monotone economics teacher in the 1986 hit film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but the sarcastic funnyman also graduated with honors from Columbia in 1966 with a degree in economics. Four years later, he was a valedictorian at Yale Law School. In 1973 and 1974, he worked as a speech writer and lawyer for Richard Nixon at the White House and later for Gerald Ford.
Stein has been a writer for the Wall Street Journal, a columnist for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and King Features Syndicate, and he is a frequent contributor to Barrons. He has published 30 books, including seven novels and 21 nonfiction books.
In his movie and television career, he hosted the Comedy Central quiz show Win Ben Stein’s Money, which won seven Emmy Awards. He also was a judge on VH1’s America’s Most Smartest Model.
Stein called the current devastating economic crisis “The most amazing example of incompetence on Wall Street and in the government supervision of Wall Street, possibly including the Great Depression.” He blamed Wall Street greed, corruption, and stupidity, adding that they are still getting rich while the rest of the country faces a recession. “It’s as if you caught someone stealing a monumental amount of money…and then you made him president,” Stein said.
He criticized the government’s handling of the crisis and specifically derided former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan, who is now a corporate consultant; current Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke for dismissing that there could be a housing bubble; and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, who said that there could never be a credit collapse.
Stein praised the efforts of security professionals, saying there is no such thing as opportunity without security. “None of it would be possible without security,” he said. “You guys make sure we have security…. That makes you more important than doctors, lawyers, and accountants…. They are the ones you are trying to keep from stealing,” he joked.
Sessions Offer Information,Insight
Businesses face threats ranging from insider theft to terrorism at the same time that a downturn in the economy is reducing the funds available for tackling those threats. Those who attended some of the more than 160 sessions offered at the seminar and exhibits learned the latest in technologies and techniques to meet these challenges. Following are summaries from a selection of the week’s presentations.
Liability. On the evening of August 2, 2007, Kenny McCormack was shot and killed at the apartment complex where he lived. The assailant had previously made threats against McCormack’s life but was not a tenant and should not have been in the complex at the time of the murder.
The security guard employed by the private security company whose services were retained by the apartment complex was not licensed and had a criminal history. The apartment complex said the guard did not follow his post orders to remove the assailant that night, even after hearing the assailant threaten the victim. The private security company countered that it had advised the apartment complex to hire more guards. Now the victim’s family is suing both the apartment complex and the private security company. The jury must now decide who is to blame.
That was the scenario offered by the law firm of Bradley and Gmelich Lawyers during a session that used a mock-trial format to show attendees what happens when things go tragically wrong on a private security company’s watch.
The lawyers in the mock civil case made opening statements, cross-examined the defendants, and ended with closing arguments. Attendees had the opportunity to see how civil lawyers deconstruct policies and practices and pull at the heart strings of a jury to reveal weaknesses that could expose a security company to liability for negligence.
In the case, the lawyers’ cross examinations exposed how sloppy paperwork, slipshod hiring practices, and clear violations of the terms of a contract ended up exposing a private security company to expensive legal fees and possible catastrophic pain and suffering damages.
After watching the mock trial, attendees were asked to play the role of the jury. Interestingly, a good portion of the audience found both the apartment complex owners and the private security company liable for what happened in the murder of Kenny McCormack, clearly surprising the lawyers conducting the exercise.
The reason for the upturned eyebrows was that the facts of the case were very similar to a recent case where Bradley and Gmelich Lawyers defended a private security firm accused of negligence. Unlike in their mock scenario, the law firm successfully argued for summary judgment, meaning the case never made it to a jury trial.