Those pesky little rascals, aka Bankers, have been at it again. In London a group of them are on trial for allegedly rigging the LIBOR interest rate market, that’s the interest rate upon which a large part of the finance industry uses to set their rates for credit card and car loans and the like. Also an elite group of international banks have been fined a total of $6B by various national regulators for rigging the foreign exchange market, this is not allegedly since they have admitted the crime, that’s a first.
The level of malpractice is so widespread that these million and billion dollar fines are now common place. One bank, JP Morgan Chase, has agreed to pay around $27B in fines etc over the past two years. This is serious money, money taken directly from their shareholders, so much for increasing shareholder value!
One of the recurring themes in all of the investigations is the number of times these sharp practices are uncovered through emails that detail not only the actions but the mind set of the conspirators; “Lets put some lipstick on this pig!” being one of the more memorable phrases. The arrogance of these correspondents is so large that they don’t appear to even consider that these messages will be seen by anyone outside of their close circle. That someday these inelegant phrases will see the light of day and that they will be asked to justify them.
There is a saying, attributed to an old time Boston Politician, “Never write if you can speak, never speak if you can nod, never nod if you can wink”. To this has been added, by a NY State Prosecutor, the modern day admonition, “Never email”.
This guidance should be used by all project managers in their correspondence. Not that I expect you’ll be involved in criminal activities. But we do discuss work and our work colleagues in emails. So we should NEVER write anything that we would be ashamed to defend to a person’s face. If you wouldn’t say it to a man’s face or in a public meeting then don’t put in a note. Also avoid adjectives, subjective judgements, and hyperbolic statements. An earthquake in Nepal is a disaster, a failed QA test is not. Let the facts speak for themselves and let the reader make her own judgement. Your emails may be more boring but you will be able defend everyone of them.
Remember words are like bullets, once they are launched they can’t be recalled and you don’t always know where they will end up: Make discretion your watchword.