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10 Smart People Who Did Really Dumb Things

8. Robert McCormick Uses the Company Card for Strippers

I think we can all agree that large bills racked up at strip clubs should never be placed on the company credit card.

 

Robert McCormick was CEO of an Internet technology company Savvis, but that position didn’t prevent him from making a colossal blunder in the common sense department.
McCormick went to an exclusive “gentlemen’s” club — appropriately named Scores — and managed to ring up a $241,000 tab on his company credit card. Yes, we said the company credit card. Scores is known for its high prices: $10,000 lap dances, bottles of champagne that cost thousands of dollars, and — McCormick claims — for fraud.

When McCormick received the extravagant bill, he disputed almost all of the charges, telling American Express that he rang up no more than a paltry $20,000. Scores countered that the club has a policy in place to verify any charge over $10,000. They take cardholder’s fingerprints and even have the customer call their credit card company to verify the charges over the phone. After two years without payment, and McCormick unable to produce any documentation showing fraud, American Express sued McCormick for the money.

Savvis, McCormick and American Express eventually settled the case confidentially and out of the courtroom, but not before McCormick resigned from the company over the scandal.

7. Stephen Glass Fabricates Most of his Journalistic Work

Stephen Glass performs comedy at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles — one of the ways he’s kept busy after leaving journalism.

At just 25 years old, Stephen Glass was already an associate editor at the prestigious publication The New Republic. He was a journalist wunderkind with a promising career ahead of him, but in May 1998, that came crashing down when Forbes reporter Adam L. Penenberg outed Glass for making up the facts in his piece “Hack Heaven”.

“Hack Heaven” was about a teenaged computer hacker who busted into a major software company’s system, and posted internal information on the company Web site. According to the riveting story, rather than prosecute the teen, the company offered him a job. It’s a dream scenario for any young hacker, but the problem is none of it was true.

Probably the most damning detail Penenberg uncovered was that the company in the story, Jukt Micronics, didn’t exist. Glass’s editor at The New Republic launched an investigation into the rest of Glass’s work and discovered that 27 of his 41 pieces for the magazine were total fabrications or contained some made-up facts. Glass even faked backup notes, phone numbers and created false Web sites to get through the fact checking process at the magazine. He also falsified articles that appeared in George and Rolling Stone magazines. Vanity Fair called it “the most sustained fraud in the history of modern journalism.”

So, what drove such a talented young reporter to do this?

Glass said he felt extreme pressure to succeed at any cost. He was a social outsider growing up who never felt that he had his parents’ approval. Those childhood anxieties followed him into his career, and stress and a fear of failure drove him to do anything — even violating journalistic ethics at elaborate lengths — to succeed. While his rocky childhood doesn’t totally excuse Glass’s actions, we can all identify a little bit with the pressure to perform.

The scandal haunted Glass even after he left journalism. In 2000 he graduated from law school, but despite passing the California and New York state bar exams, in 2012 he was still fighting for the right to practice law because of the plagiarism in his past.

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