Put Your Hands in the Air and Step Away from the Desk
If you're a convicted CEO who's heading to prison for the first time, let me just say this: You should be totally stoked. A trip to the slammer could be the best career move you ever made, and after a few weeks behind bars, you'll be kicking yourself for not getting convicted sooner.
Surprised? I thought you might be. You've probably bought into the conventional wisdom that a prison sentence is some kind of "punishment," a fate to be avoided at all costs. Well, you won't see me slicing that brand of baloney. If you follow the simple advice in this book, you'll discover what successful CEO convicts everywhere already know: If time is money, then hard time is hard cash.
Are you drinking the Kool-Aid yet? If not, perhaps a few facts will change your mind:
Thanks to the rising tide of corporate scandals, former CEOs are pouring into America's penitentiaries in record numbers, the biggest migration of white-collar criminals into the penal system since the fall of the Nixon administration. Within the next five years, one out of four CEOs in the United States will be convicted and sent to jail, while another one out of four will flee the country in a single-engine plane with gold coins and priceless diamonds sewn into his underpants. Still another one out of four will plea-bargain his way into performing community service, such as teaching inner city youths and the elderly how to destroy incriminating documents and create fictitious off-the-books partnerships.
But that still leaves a whole lot of CEOs heading up the river -- good news for you, because you'll be far from alone. Once you're in prison, if you look to your right, and then to your left, your chances of recognizing someone from your business school class will be better than 50 percent, and even better than that if you went to Harvard. According to a recent study, prison construction in the United States is lagging well behind the pace of CEO convictions, and by the end of the decade there will be as many as one hundred thousand CEOs behind bars -- roughly ten thousand times the number of people who are looking forward to the next Meg Ryan film.
Will prison change these chief executive offenders? Based on anecdotal evidence, just the opposite is occurring. With each passing day, these "barbarians at the prison gate" are reinventing prison as we know it, turning up their noses at such outmoded goals of incarceration as "rehabilitation" and "paying one's debt to society." Being thrown in a cell hasn't kept them from thinking outside the box -- far from it. When an incarcerated CEO wakes up in the morning, he doesn't see the concrete walls, the barbed wire, or the ferocious guard dogs -- he sees an ideal place to grow a new business, far from the prying eyes of the SEC and the Department of Justice. The inmate of yesteryear was always looking for a fight; today's convicted CEO is in search of excellence.
So before you head off to the pokey, get over that shopworn myth about prison being a bad thing. If you're smart enough and savvy enough -- and the fact that you've bought this book is a pretty good sign that you are both -- you'll emerge from your time in the joint more productive, more innovative, and millions of dollars wealthier than you were on the day that the prison guard first checked you for lice.
Not buying this? I know what you're thinking: I'm just another slick con man, primed to sell you a bill of goods and make out like a bandit.
Well, guess again: I'm a convicted CEO myself.
That's right. And I'm not just some run-of-the-mill, caught-with-his-hands-in-the-cookie-jar CEO, either: Just last year, Forbes named me one of "America's Top 100 Convicted CEOs," putting my police mug shot on the cover of that esteemed publication. Yes, Forbes gave me my "props," and in the select fraternity of imprisoned chief executives, it doesn't get any better than that.
I can tell you still have your doubts. "If he's so important," you say, your words slurred by the cocktail of antidepressants and tranquilizers you've been on ever since your verdict was announced, "why did he even bother to write this book?" A good question that deserves a good answer -- and this time, for a change, I won't take the Fifth.
Before I took my first fateful ride on the so-called "dog bus" to prison, shackled to a fellow convict who had a picture of the cast of "The Facts of Life" tattooed on his back, I paid a visit to my local bookstore, hoping to find some reference work that might help ease my transition from CEO to CBO (Cell Block Occupant). What did I find there? Cookbooks. Cat books. Book after book of poetry by the pop singer Jewel, all drastically reduced. But nowhere did I find a book preparing the former CEO for his stay in prison, even though convicted CEOs represent the fastest-growing segment of the reading public today. I vowed with all my heart to correct this sad state of affairs, and once I received assurances from my attorney that the thousands of shareholders currently engaged in class-action lawsuits against me could claim no share of my publishing royalties, I buckled down and began to write.
Writing a book while in prison is not an easy task. When an inmate in the cell next to mine started screaming, "Press the bunk, punk!!!" at the top of his lungs, I could not ask him to keep it down; when I dropped my pen on the floor, I was afraid to pick it up. Yet, somehow, I prevailed, and you are now holding the fruits of my efforts in your sweaty, trembling hands.
If you're a CEO who's been caught, this is the one book you won't want to be caught without. I hope this book is helpful as you trade your pinstripes for horizontal ones. I hope this book is long enough to answer your most pressing questions, short enough to hold your attention, yet thick enough to hollow out and hide a small weapon in. Read it, study it, learn from it -- and for heaven's sake, don't skim it. After all, you're not going anywhere.
Andy Borowitz is a comedian and satirist whose work appears in The New Yorker and at his award-winning website, BorowitzReport.com. He was the first-ever winner of the National Press Club’s award for humor.