Navigating the aftermath of government investigations, including a DOJ Press Release, requires balancing personal accountability and strategic communication with all stakeholders, including family.

A few days ago I had a conversation with an executive that highlighted the complexities individuals and their families face while dealing with an investigation, in this case, a fraud investigation out of Arizona.

A Familiar Story Across Cities: Houston to Tucson

Throughout my career, encountering similar stories in cities like Houston, Orlando, and now Tucson has continually reinforced the need for transparency and taking control of the narrative.

An Unexpected Call: Confessions and Consequences

During our conversation, the executive admitted, “I’ve made bad choices.” He had pleaded guilty to a white-collar crime in Arizona about 13 months prior and was on the brink of sentencing. Fortunately, at that time, the Department of Justice (DOJ) had not issued a press release about his case. This absence of a scathing public record allowed him to maintain some normalcy in his personal life.

Kids in the Dark

Despite the lack of public scrutiny, the executive had chosen to keep his situation confined to his wife and lawyer. He had not disclosed his fraud case to his twin 13-year-old daughters, believing it would protect them. News of his impending sentencing, however, eventually leaked within their community.

The Cruelty of Exposure

The consequences of his decision to withhold the truth were devastating. Someone in the community discovered details about his sentencing and shared them, which soon reached his daughters’ school. They faced ridicule and taunting from peers, hearing cruel words like, “Aha! Your dad is a jailbird.” This led to a distressing phone call from them to their father: “Daddy, you’re going to prison. What’s happening?” He had to leave work immediately to comfort his distraught daughters.

Owning Your Narrative

When the executive sought my advice, I stressed the importance of controlling your narrative. “If you let others control the narrative, they will,” I advised him. In such situations, accepting responsibility and openly apologizing are essential. It’s about embracing reality, owning your mistakes and showing a commitment to improvement.

The Power of Transparency

This story underscores the importance of transparency and early communication in mitigating the personal and familial fallout from a white-collar crime case. By owning your story, you prevent others from defining your narrative and causing additional harm to those you care about most. This executive’s experience is a poignant reminder of the power of truth, especially in times of crisis.

Discussion Question on DOJ Press Releases:

“How can owning your narrative influence both your sentencing outcome and personal relationships and what steps can you take to start controlling the narrative of your own situation?”

Justin Paperny