This week CNBC is airing Episode 48 of its American Greed series. “Hedge Fund Imposter” is the story of Marc Dreier, a high-profile New York lawyer who admitted to a $400 million investment fund fraud that unraveled at the same time as Bernard Madoff's huge swindle. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in July, 2009. What the show does not mention is that Federal Judge Jed Rakoff also ordered Dreier to receive treatment for alcoholism while locked up.
We all know there is a need, though you don’t often hear from executives who’ve been in rehab. Occasionally one will speak out in the hope of helping others, but most guard their privacy carefully. However, when they choose rehab over jail because it allows them to circumvent a jail sentence, or when they have no choice about going to jail or prison and doing rehab there, it can hit the news.
Aaron Sorkin, executive producer of the NBC series The West Wing (he also wrote the screenplay for “A Few Good Men.”), exemplified the first case just over 10 years ago. Sorkin was at the Burbank airport when the authorities found hallucinogenic mushrooms, pot, and cocaine in a carry-on bag. After pleading guilty to two felonies, he was sentenced to drug rehab. He could have paid a $10,000 fine and been given a 4-year jail sentence; understandably, he went to rehab. The story is here.
In 2007, after Delta rejected a takeover bid from his airline, US Air CEO Doug Parker spent a day in prison for driving under the influence. It seemed to be a 1-time occurrence due to what happened, but he took full responsibility. He was also ordered to receive alcohol screening at the Center for Recovering Families. The story is here.
Executives are no different from anyone else who takes a drink or another drug, but they’re a difficult group to treat, for several reasons. They don’t have to answer to anyone on a daily basis, so they can hide out in their office and drink, or not go to work at all. They usually have financial resources to cover consequences such as cracking up their car, and it can take quite awhile to run through their funds. People close to them often don’t want to confront them and embarrass the family or lose their source of income. So sometimes, it’s their boards of directors, or a business partner, that give them an ultimatum: Get help or leave.
Joan Borsten note: Malibu Beach Recovery Center has a very discreet Executive Program. It caters to high level executives, professionals, high achievers and members of the entertainment industry who do not have the luxury of time to dedicate to a long term inpatient program.