On August 9th, 2023, at 12 pm I will film a live Youtube video: The Cost of Silence: My Experience with Fraud, Failure, and Federal Prison. 

My journey from the high-flying world of finance to the sobering reality of incarceration is a cautionary tale. Through my books Lessons from Prison and Ethics in Motion, I aim to share my experiences. Still, the heart of my story is best conveyed by recounting my path into unethical behavior, the consequences, my reflections, and my continued transformation. As the thumbnail of this video shows, I am a work in progress.

Early Career Success

I started my career with success, but the culture I was a part of began to erode my ethical principles. Aggressive trading and the relentless pursuit of profit led me down a path devoid of integrity and transparency.

A Gradual Slide

The pressure to earn more gradually worsened my commitment to ethical behavior until I violated moral codes and securities laws.

The Hedge Fund Incident: The Cost of Silence

The pinnacle moment came when I discovered incontrovertible proof of fraud within a hedge fund I oversaw. Despite knowing the truth, I chose silence, becoming a co-conspirator in a Ponzi scheme.

The Consequences: Investigation and Legal Fallout: The Cost of Silence

My failure to report the fraud led to an investigation, my subsequent firing, and a draining legal battle that left me financially burdened.

Personal Toll and Making Amends

My actions during this period created victims, leading to immense emotional pain for those affected by the fraud. Their suffering always comes first. Additionally, the consequences extended to cause emotional and psychological strain on my family and myself. I have recognized the importance of making amends and am proud to report that I have paid 100% of my criminal restitution. This act demonstrates my resolve to face the wrong I have done and make meaningful strides toward repairing the harm. My actions resulted in a federal prison sentence, a sobering realization of my wrongdoings, and the beginning of a painful path toward redemption.

Reflection and Growth in Prison

In prison, I had time to reflect and understand the “fraud triangle” of pressure, rationalization, and opportunity that had trapped me.

Learning from Others In Federal Prison

I heard stories from fellow inmates who, like me, had seen their lives uprooted because of bad decisions that began with disregarding values-based decision-making.

Recommitment to Ethics

I renewed my commitment to the principles I once held dear and started the journey to rebuild my life.

Post-Prison Transformation

After prison, I dedicated myself to supporting justice-impacted individuals and working on criminal justice reform.

Speaking Engagements

I have had the privilege of speaking at places like the FBI Academy, USC, and KPMG, and have been featured in various media platforms.
Current Work

My ongoing work promotes ethical behavior and assists others through the justice system.

Conclusion

My story is a stark reminder of the importance of adhering to ethical principles. We all have a responsibility to live as good citizens, recognizing that our decisions have consequences for us and society at large. By sharing this journey, I inspire others to reflect on their ethical commitments and strive to live with integrity and honesty.

I am thankful to those who have supported me and to you, the reader, for taking the time to understand my story. May it serve as a beacon for others to follow, embracing the wisdom of honesty, transparency, temperance, balance, integrity, and good citizenship.

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Justin Paperny