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Cool It People: It's Only Money

I had a great January in the market(I've been waiting for months to see Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) break out) but a difficult month philosophically. I had to complete my California Bar Association continuing legal education and I got hooked on American Greed and Investigative Discovery. I got the great book about Bernie Madoff - No One Would Listen - as a Christmas present and read and reviewed it. I think I may be getting ready to become a Trappist Monk.

What is going on? Ponzis, suicides, insurance scams, unethical lawyers, criminally negligent accountants - where are we headed and why? The California CLE featured a story about a wealthy couple whose squabble about the details of a pernup led to a palimony suit resembling the Battle of Verdun and featuring posionous and widely publicized allegations. If they were in love and had decided to marry and were doing the short strokes on the prenup, they should have been able to COMPROMISE. If they weren't in love, they shouldn't have been drafting a prenup. On the other hand, maybe they were each in love with money; all I know is that a bunch of lawyers walked away with Chesire cat grins and fat wallets. The lesson should have been - Money is just not that important! - I am not sure that's what the CLE folks were trying to impart to us.

We then learned about an entire area of practice devoted to "protecting" assets from the rapacious governmental entities who make the outrageous assumption that the government should be reimbursed by wealthy families for the free nursing home care provided at government expense for senior citizens in the family. Finally, we had a review of some of the ethical "pitfalls" that lawyers are getting themselves in.

I then reviewed various lawyer participants in major financial fraud - the Florida lawyer who apparently used his mid-sized law firm as a front for a Ponzi scheme and the New York lawyer who engaged in an elaborate fraud involving forged loan documents and, when having to explain himself in court, complained that the world was unfair because lawyers were not as well compensated as investment bankers and he was just trying to rectify matters.

The United States does not have the greatest safety net and the bankers bribed Congress to make it harder for people to get a fresh start after bankruptcy. So I guess money anxiety has a rational basis. But - please people - step back, think about what your conduct will look like in front of a jury of working class people and retirees, and, while you are racing to that next meeting that's going to make you rich, pull over, hop out of your Lexus, and smell the g*******d roses!!!