A recent Reuters story tells the tale of Florian Homm, 53, an American hedge fund manager nicknamed Steamroller who was just arrested in Europe after five years in hiding. A federal grand jury has indicted him for fraudulent investment practices that lost his investors about $200 million.
His strategy included what's known as "portfolio pumping," artificially inflating the value of a company by internal cross trading, which has no other purpose than to misrepresent profitability. This can encourage investment and justify higher fees.
What fascinated me in this story is the brazenness of his actions, including writing and publishing a memoir that describes how he fled with cash stuffed in his underwear. His weren't crimes of neglect, sloppy accounting or bad bets. He seemed to be deliberately, consciously, one might even venture "proudly" cheating his customers.
If you're reading this blog it's unlikely you're doing anything remotely as underhanded as this gentleman. But things get subtler as our awareness expands. Who hasn't deliberately misled others for their own benefit? It can be as simple as exaggerating an accomplishment, embellishing a resume, telling a fish story of one kind or another. Portfolio pumping.
One might protest that it's hardly the same because little white lies don't really hurt anyone. Maybe not... or maybe they do and it's just not as obvious. The Steamroller deceived others so they would invest money with him, and they lost it. What do our friends invest in us because of our inflated personas? Trust, love, respect? And that's what they lose when our inauthenticity is revealed.
We could come clean with ourselves before that happens! We know we've done it, and we may know (as we read this) that we're still doing it. And that guilt we feel means we're actually on the lam ourselves, afraid of being exposed! Perhaps this fraud's story can inspire us to turn ourselves in – to ourselves! – and resolve to be authentic in our communication, proud of our true selves just the way we are, and honest with our stories.