Five Turkeys! One Pardon!
Dear Mr. Brandenberger:
You may have seen turkeys, but you have not seen anything like these Turkeys of the Year!
Non-existent customer Turkey. Wells Fargo recently uncovered an additional 1.4 million fake accounts, bringing the grand total to over 3.5 million fake bank and credit card accounts. Thousands of unsuspecting Wells Fargo customers were slapped with unnecessary fees. The Turkey here is former CEO John Stumpf. While the sales culture may have started before Stumpf became CEO, it clearly accelerated and went undiscovered during his tenure. The vast majority of Wells Fargo employees are decent and hardworking. The board of directors was overwhelmingly reelected by the bank’s shareholders. In this case, the Turkey is John Stumpf.
Unprotected Turkey. Equifax will meticulously record whether or not you had three months of late charges on your credit card nine years ago. Apparently those standards of meticulous attention to detail do not apply to the company’s internal standards. Equifax admitted a security breach that affects over 143 million customers. This was not the “usual” massive data breach (see Yahoo). The yahoos at Equifax lost control of highly sensitive personal data, including Social Security numbers, drivers’ license data, dates of birth and credit card numbers. Equifax had been warned by index provider MSCI about security shortcomings, but waited months before warning the public. Turkey and former CEO Richard Smith should receive a lifetime credit score of zero, and his personal data should be posted on a public website.
Cross your fingers behind your back Turkey. In May, a document about claims of sexual harassment involving a top University of Minnesota athletic department official ended up at KSTP. The reporter credited a regent.
A Trumpian witch hunt then ensued to find the “leaker.” All members of the Board of Regents were required (sternly asked?) to sign an affidavit that they had not leaked this information to KSTP. Gov. Dayton criticized the U for paying more attention to leakers than lechers. By late summer it was announced that even though all the regents had signed the affidavit, and even though the university had hired a very expensive outside law firm, no leaker could be identified.
Without naming names, whoever thought it was a good idea to require the regents to sign an affidavit is the real Turkey here. Taxpayer money, always in short supply when it comes to the University of Minnesota, has been expended on this quest. Turkeys all around.
Twin Turkeys. Minnesota became major league when the Minnesota Twins moved here in 1961. The team lost 103 games last year, but this season was different. A Hall of Fame-savvy manager, Paul Molitor, made brilliant day-to-day, inning-to-inning substitutions attempting to give the appearance of having an actual bullpen. Joe—our hometown Joe!—returned to form, hitting over .300 and fielding with a Golden Glove. But!
The new front office decided to trade pitcher Jaime Garcia, whom the Twins had acquired six days before, for two young pitching prospects. The Twins would continue to pay $4+ million of the Garcia salary to the Yankees. Not content with that, the next day the front office traded away the Twins’ All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler. In essence, the front office pulled the plug and gave up on the team at the end of July. But a funny thing happened.
The fans didn’t give up on the team. The team didn’t give up on the team, and particularly not on Brian Dozier (whom the front office had unsuccessfully tried to trade during the winter). The team rallied and had the most successful August in franchise history. Baseball is played within the same calendar year, and each season is all its own. Perhaps the front office moves will be successful in some other season. After all, the front office decided to bring back Paul Molitor. There is hope for the future, but they still deserve Turkeys for trying to pull the plug on this team in July.
High-flying Turkey. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was a loud critic of what he considered government waste during his 14 years in Congress. As HHS secretary, and again to save taxpayer money, he slashed funding for the Affordable Care Act.
Turkeys are cumbersome in flight, but not this one. The media, led by Politico, Vanity Fair, Bloomberg News and NBC News, all chronicled Secretary Price’s use of private and military aircraft for travel at a total cost to taxpayers of $1.1 million. Price offered to pay back $56,000 of the total tab to taxpayers, once again showing his skill at cost-cutting (his). Thankfully, this Turkey has flown the coop, probably on Delta back to Atlanta.
Presidential Turkey Pardon. According to the National Turkey Foundation, the turkey presented to the president is usually of the broad-breasted white variety (. . . ahem). No president, regardless of party, would grant a turkey pardon to John Stumpf of Wells Fargo nor to Richard Smith of Equifax. Some presidents might be justified in giving a pardon to the University of Minnesota athletic department because it has now installed a competent and principled athletic director, Mark Coyle. Certainly former MLB team owner George W. Bush would pardon the Minnesota Twins front office because it re-signed Paul Molitor. But the current president is without precedent, and so to get practice in the granting of pardons, this president should pardon all the turkeys. Thanksgiving cancelled! You read it here first.
Vance K. Opperman
Product of the American Dream
Vance K. Opperman (email@example.com) is owner and CEO of MSP Communications, which publishes Twin Cities Business.