Timeshare Raids, Kenneth Cole Blows Up Twitter, Yet, There is Still Good News

Last week was one of those ‘weeks’. They happen sometimes and when they do, they can cause you to question people and perhaps the world in general.

Timeshare Takedown in Orlando

The offices of a business in Orlando that called itself a timeshare company were raided on Wednesday. Their crime? A scam we have all heard about too many times before: they promised to sell timeshares that people no longer wanted; took money for their services; and had no intention of selling or even attempting to sell the properties.

Yet when the SWAT officers made the arrests, they weren’t hauling away grizzled, seasoned criminals. Instead, they arrested four young adults between the ages of 19 and 27. If you follow this link to an Orlando Sentinel article, you will see that the individuals arrested look like they could be your kid brother, little sister, or perhaps your own young adult children. And it is hard to say which part of the story is sadder, the victims defrauded and bilked of cash or the young lives thrown away by four people who chose to use their energy, passion and skill in earning an illegal living rather than building careers, advancing their future and contributing to the world in legitimate ways.

Social Media Mistake

The situation in Egypt and other areas of the Middle East is frightening, tragic, and probably nearly impossible to comprehend by all of us who go about our safe and peaceful lives thousands of miles away. But as the tensions have heightened and the dangers increased, we have all felt concern and compassion for the innocent people whose lives are being upended by the tumult—sentiments many have shared and discussed via different social media platforms.

…Except for Kenneth Cole, the legendary shoe and clothing manufacturer. In a move that makes the average person shudder, and marketing gurus cringe, Kenneth Cole tweeted, “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online… -KC.”

Let’s give him credit that he simply didn’t realize how callous his statements would sound when glibly applied to the violence currently going on in Egypt. And yet how do you justify attempting to create materialistic gain or recognition by parodying human suffering?

In Cole’s defense, he did later delete the tweet and offered a public apology on Facebook.

But Before You Lose All Faith in Humankind

Last week there was a bit of news that should leave us all feeling more hopeful: “Fifth Third Bancorp, the large regional Midwestern bank, announces it has repaid the $3.4 billion taxpayer bailout it received.”

It was a story that didn’t get as much attention as it deserved, but then sometimes it is hard to be heard over SWAT raids and a twitterer who puts his foot—complete with a fine leather Kenneth Cole shoe—squarely into his mouth.

Fifth Third Bancorp is a large regional bank that received money in the federal government’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, known as TARP. Last week, Fifth Third repurchased 136,320 shares of the preferred stock that the Treasury received as ‘collateral’ as part of the December 2008 bailout. As part of the deal, the bank has also paid the government more than $340 million in dividends.

Although Fifth Third is not completely out from under its obligation to the US Government (and the US people), their repayment goes a long way to helping restore public confidence in the financial system. Kevin Kabat, president and chief executive officer of Fifth Third, issued a statement saying, “Redemption of TARP represents another important milestone for Fifth Third. We appreciate that U.S. taxpayers made an investment in our company at that time, and we are pleased to be able to return that investment to them.”

Repayment of debt owed demonstrates fiscal responsibility. More importantly, it reminds us that for every bad business move we hear about in the news, there are endless acts of honesty, integrity, and ethics demonstrated every day by companies both large and small. While bad news tends to be what makes the headlines, the good news is responsibility, accountability, and concern for others is actually what keeps companies running, people employed, and goods or services being delivered daily.