Tag Archives: Sergeant Schultz

Inartful dodges and implausible denials

Must be a new experience for Bill Stenger, having a hard time getting his calls returned. After all, he’s been a major player at the intersection of Vermont business and politics for a long time now, benefiting from sweetheart deals and inadequate oversight (see Postscript below) courtesy of at least two successive administrations.

After years of holding together his massive EB-5 project with chicken wire and spit, Stenger is now embroiled in the sales pitch of a lifetime: portraying himself as innocent in the face of federal and state investigations and an increasingly ugly paper trail.

From VPR’s Peter Hirschfeld, we learn that federal officials “had strong forensic evidence of a massive fraud” at least two years ago, and that Stenger was subjected to an intensive interview by SEC investigators in May 2014.

And from the Burlington Free Press’ Jess Aloe, we learn that Stenger’s top financial executive resigned in 2011 “after [Stenger] failed to address concerns about the use of money from foreign investors.”

It is literally impossible to believe that an experienced entrepreneur like Stenger could somehow remain clueless in the face of all that. But there he was, telling the Free Press last Monday (two days before the SEC raided his offices, seized his papers, and changed the locks) that nothing was wrong. And on Friday, two days after the raid, he doubled down.

“There was a lot of stuff in the presentation that I got on Wednesday that I was not aware of,” Stenger said. “I can’t go any further than that. I’ve got to let it go at that. I’m trying to figure this out as well. I just need to deal with it.”

Okay, I see what we’re doing here: blaming the dark-skinned flatlander.

Continue reading

State Senate trying to Norquist ethics reform

Vermont’s Most Sclerotic Deliberative Body has been taking its time with a proposal to set up a state Ethics Commission. Much more time than they took with legalizing marijuana, and probably longer than they’ll take with the frickin’ budget.

Why the slow play? Well, the Senate’s point person on ethics reform makes it abundantly clear.

Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham and chairwoman of the Government Operations Committee, said, “Because the press keeps saying that we’re the only state without an ethics commission and clearly we have something to hide … I don’t really believe that.”

Credit to the Associated Press’ Dave Gram for capturing that entry into the Quote of the Year competition.

Jeezum Crow. The Senator in charge of ethics reform doesn’t believe ethics reform is necessary. She blames the media for fomenting “a lack of faith in government officials.”

Methinks the good Senator has been in Montpelier too long. She’s been so deep in the system for so long, she’s lost all perspective.

Continue reading

The Sergeant Schultz of Wall Street

“Waiter, waiter! My table is on fire! Can we have some water?”

“Sorry, sir, that’s not my station.”

I ended my last post about Bruce Lisman with a reminder of his 2010 comments to the effect that the 2008 financial collapse was some sort of unforeseeable natural event, a “Darwinian asteroid,” “this thing that happened.”

Well, he did offer some further comments on his Wall Street tenure during his interview with Mark Johnson, but they didn’t do anything to soften my criticism. He expressed pride in his own record as a Bear Stearns executive, and professed ignorance of the gross malfeasance that was going on at the doomed company.

In a sense, he had a point. He was busy running his own division, and it wasn’t his responsibility to make himself aware of what other executives were doing. Although, it must be said, the misdeeds of his fellow Bear Stearns execs turned out to be a disaster for his division’s clients as well as everyone else in the goddamn world.

And what does it say about his insight, his judgment, that he could be stationed on the deck of the Titanic and not see the iceberg coming? Or not raise serious questions about the decision to steer the ship through the North Atlantic ice fields? Especially when he’s so sharply critical of the Shumlin administration’s failure to plan ahead, take the long view, make government predictable and accountable, and gather the data necessary to make intelligent long-range decisions?

He is expecting far more of state government than he expected of himself and his fellow executives. And he is demanding a level of accountability for state officials that he is still not willing to assume for the catastrophic dealings of Bear Stearns, the firm where he spent his entire career.

Think I’m being harsh? Let’s look at the transcript.

Continue reading

Sometimes, “Throw The Bastards Out” seems like the best option

Well, the reaction has been fast, furious, and predictable. Legislative leaders are, for the most part, decidedly cool to the idea of an independent Ethics Commission. This, in spite of a legislative session that saw, in the words of VTDigger’s Anne Galloway, “one outrage followed another in the waning days.”

Still, State Rep. David Deen, chair of the secretive House Ethics Panel, managed to pull a Sergeant Schultz:

“I think putting something like this in place when we seemingly don’t have a major problem I’m aware of makes me wonder, are you stimulating complaints? Are you creating a problem where one doesn’t exist?”

“Seemingly don’t have a major problem”? I think I owe an apology to Sergeant Schultz.

And then there was the chair of the Senate Government Operations Committee, the gatekeeper for potential ethics reform:

When Sen. Jeannette White, D-Windham, heard about the plan, her first response was “No, no, no, that’s not going to happen.”

Good grief.

It’s things like this that make me believe we’d be better off if we fired all 30 state senators and replaced them with Vermonters chosen by lottery.

Continue reading