Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"The CNBC Guy"

Taking it To The Street

     Late last Fall a colleague of mine was asked by an associate of his, a producer at CNBC, “What’s new in the world of white collar crime?” CNBC produces the program “American Greed” whose focus is primarily on white collar crimes and the men who commit them. My colleague is a former white collar criminal and fairly well known consultant/lecturer writer, (and Moth contributor), on the subject of white collar crime who supports my advocacy work, and I his. He told the CNBC guy that he thought my story would make for an interesting segment and answered the producer's question with, “White collar wives.” The producer replied, “What the hell is a white collar wife?”  After sharing with him about my advocacy work, the international support group I founded and facilitate for white collar wives, my blog and the book(s) I am writing the producer said he was interested in contacting me and took my number. My colleague called me excitedly to tell me about the conversation and to expect a call. I of course thanked him for the introduction.

     A few days went by, then a week, a month and then many more months followed without a word from "The CNBC Guy". To date, I still have not heard from Mr. CNBC and likely never will. But I've been down this road before with others who were seemingly interested but who ultimately felt that white collar wives are not an interesting enough topic on their own merit or that they think they already know everything there is to know about a white collar wife. Given this wide view I'm going to provide an education here not only to The CNBC Guy but to all concerned with the business of white collar crime because I think it's worth having this education in your line of work. Hopefully after learning what you need to know on this topic every time you consider white collar crime you might think twice and remember that there is more to the story.  White collar crime is not just about money and the perps who go off to prison. That's only half the story because there are families whose lives are profoundly affected and forever altered. Did you know that? Well, did you?   
     So Mr. CNBC, here's what wasn't interesting enough for you to pick up your phone to learn about white collar wives, even on a slow news day. 

     Did you know that wives and children of white collar criminals become impoverished in every way possible, (emotionally, financially, socially, etc.),  through no fault of their own?  Did you know that after laying the horrific burden of their crimes at the feet of their families that most white collar criminals then threaten or attempt suicide because they know they have obliterated any security or stability their families had or would ever have?  Did you know that the pain wives experience as a result of these, (sometimes constant), threats and or attempts  add to the fear, anger and shame she is already coping with? Did you know the trauma inflicted in realizing the man who was supposed to protect his family but instead sold them off to the highest bidder for a bloody buck and is now too cowardly to deal with the consequences makes a white collar wife want to take her own life too but she cannot afford to entertain that impulse because she loves her children and has an obligation to care for them?  Did you know that wives carry the pain of those that have been harmed financially by her husband? Did you know that many wives are forced to face their own legal battles as many are levied heavy fines from the IRS and DOR, (sometimes into the hundreds of thousands of dollars),  for gains they had no knowledge of and only because they dutifully file their taxes jointly with their then unknown to them, criminal husbands? How can a wife report income that went unreported to her? And how can she cope with being threatened by the full force of a government who treats her as a guilty party? Did you know that in the midst of trying to find a solution to this absurd situation she is suffering debilitating fear and anxiety? Did you know that the government can continue to threaten her with revocation of a drivers license and in some cases a cease and desist from driving ANY vehicle on ANY road in that state unless and until the debt is cleared? Did you know failure to comply is punishable by the full force of the law as in, "These violations are punishable by jail"?  Did you know that a tax entity will try to arrange a hardship payment plan and that agreeing to set up such a plan is akin to pleading guilty? Most white collar wives don't understand that what they need is a full ABATEMENT. Did you know that wives often have to go into further debt to borrow funds from family members to hire attorneys to protect themselves and their children to clean up the mess their husbands left for them? Did you know that wives and children have to stand by helplessly as their homes and everything in them are seized and hauled off to be sold to help pay the debts of the sins of the father? Did you know that ANY AND ALL property is deemed guilty regardless of whether or not the asset was owned by the wife PRIOR to or separately from her marriage? Do you have any idea that it is just this side of impossible to have such assets returned to a wife?  Do you know the heartbreak and emotional damage a child suffers watching his/her father being hauled off in handcuffs? Do you know how broken a child becomes when their father is eventually incarcerated for a crime of pure greed? Do you know the pain and helplessness a mother feels for her children under these circumstances?  Did you know that most white collar wives have to go on welfare to support themselves and their children because after attorney fees and losing head of household income there is nothing left? I don't mean nothing left as in there are no funds available for a manicure after groceries and rent are paid, I mean THERE ARE NO FUNDS LEFT. PERIOD. Did you know that it's not a crime to be a professional wife and mother, (either working class or upper class),  and when a woman loses this least respected job to return to the workplace there is in fact too often no place for her there?  Did you know that wives and children become marginalized in society as they suffer in the extreme from guilt by association causing them to hide in the dark shadows of shame which makes recovery very difficult?  Did you know a white collar criminal investigation can take years to bring to trial/plea and that during that time families are left in a state of horrific limbo while waiting for the ax to fall and that they are riddled with so much heartache, shame and anxiety that they become unable to function normally? Can you imagine the emotional assault a family must endure knowing a husband/father chose his own selfish behavior over the well being of his own family? Can you see now that wives and children are the first victims of most white collar crimes? Well, can you??

     The fact that white collar criminals are so often "spotlighted" in the news time and again is shocking to me. Their stories are all the same in that they violate a fiduciary trust, get caught and do their time. They come out of prison and begin new lives full of repent and a willingness to do better. Those whose marriages did not survive the bomb remarry in short order and go on their way. And I'm glad for that as I am a great believer in redemption. But what is known of the women who are left behind to pick up the pieces of theirs and their children's  shattered lives? It can't possibly be known because those who have the means to educate the public and help reverse the social stigma and unjust laws regarding white collar wives either don't care enough or have no idea of our struggle. Our stories of domestic sabotage, strength and survival are never heard. But they should be. And it's my job to make sure that from here on out, they are. White collar wives will no longer go quietly into that dark night.

     The fact that a seemingly savvy news producer had no interest in the plight of white collar wives leaves me no doubt that I have to continue to try to educate the public about the horrors families face as a result of their husband’s financial crimes. The public, and apparently one CNBC producer, think that white collar wives are made of plastic as a result of how often it is perceived we use our credit cards at Barney's and are therefore not deserving of any support or sympathy whatsoever. And some people believe that wives and or ex-wives of white collar criminals are somehow living off the spoils of ill gotten funds. But I know of only one white collar wife who was reportedly able to keep a whopping two million dollars from her husband's illicit financial empire and she knows who she is. But most white collar wives who are not proactive at the onset of an investigation are left without a dime to their name and the only household possession left behind after the receivers come in and take everything is a broom to sweep up the mess. 

     So Mr. CNBC, now you know what a white collar wife is so there's no need to pick up the phone.