Mr. R. Allen Stanford has been indicted on 21 counts of embezzling up to $7 billion. We would like to think that, if we were his friend and he were indeed guilty, we would have offered him some valuable advice.
Unfortunately, the friends of Mr. Stanford prove to be strong advocates of his moral sense. They include one of the top financial regulators and the ex-governor of Antigua, who allowed Mr. Stanford to rewrite the banking laws of their island. They also include an associate at Stanford’s bank who began shredding documents as soon as he heard the Securities and Exchange Commission was launching an investigation.
It’s hard to say what Ben Franklin might tell Mr. Stanford today. If he could have spoken to him earlier in his career, however, he might have repeated what he wrote in the New England Magazine in 1758.
“It is … necessary for every Person who desires to be a wise Man, to take particular Notice of HIS OWN Actions, and of HIS OWN Thoughts and Intentions which are the Original of his Actions; with great Care and Circumspection… And, lest all this Diligence should be insufficient, as Partiality to himself will certainly render it, it is very requisite for him to choose a FRIEND, or MONITOR, who must be allowed the greatest Freedom to advertise and remind him of his Failings, and to point out Remedies.
“Such a One, I mean, as is a discreet and virtuous Person; but especially One that does not creep after the Acquaintance of, or play the Spaniel to, great Men; One who does not covet Employments which are known to be scandalous for Opportunities of Injustice: One who can bridle his Tongue and curb his Wit; One that can converse with himself, and industriously attends upon his Affairs whatever they be.
“Find out such a Man; insinuate yourself into a Confidence with him; and desire him to observe your Conversation and Behavior; entreat him to admonish you of what he thinks amiss, in a serious and friendly Manner; importune his Modesty till he condescends to grant your Request.”