Sometimes, the best thing to do is to go with the flow and let things play out. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to choose a desired outcome and lead others toward that outcome.

How do you decide?

I had a conversation this past week with a friend who was a banker earlier in his career. I asked him what he thought about the announcement earlier that day of the JP Morgan settlement regarding Jeffrey Epstein.

My initial thought was if a borrower is paying their loan on a timely basis, is the bank obligated to probe what the borrower is doing with the money?  

My friend pointed out that if the bank is a relationship bank, the bankers meet with the client regularly and ask questions about the business. Turns out, internal emails revealed that executives did know about Epstein’s activities. 

So why didn’t these executives, at least one of whom was a woman, speak up? 

The conversation became uncomfortable when I asked this question, and we moved on to another topic.

While our conversation moved on, I’ve continued to wonder about my question:

  • Is it because they felt the personal risk to themselves and their career was too great to speak up or take action?
  • Is it because they somehow were able to compartmentalize and separate the business relationship from the question of “What if these were my daughters?” 
  • Is it because they didn’t believe what they heard? 
  • Is it because they feared Epstein could damage the bank’s reputation because he was so well connected?
  • Is it because they feared legal repercussions as individuals or as an institution? 

 I wonder, too, if the executives involved paused and asked themselves these questions. 

Perhaps not. Perhaps they were just going with the flow. 

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