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U.S. Attorney keeps class commitment, manages FBI operation

Published: 2012-05-01

Steven Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said he came to Fisher because he wanted to encourage the next generation of business leaders, graduate students in ethics courses taught by faculty members David Freel and Roy Lewicki, that business ethics and fighting corruption are cornerstones of their education.

His commitment was very evident.

This was despite the fact he arrived late to Gerlach Hall. And once in the room, he fielded and conducted numerous mobile phone calls before heading to the front of the classroom.  When he took his place up front, he apologized profusely to the graduate students.

“I really wanted to be here, because what I want us to talk about is very important to me,” he said. “I assure you, this isn’t normally how I operate. But I promise, what is going on right now is very important. You can read about it in The Cleveland Plain Dealer tomorrow.”

What he wasn’t able to divulge to the students was that he was managing an FBI operation and receiving updates on the arrests of five men charged in a terrorist bomb plot. Not only was the news covered in the Plain Dealer, but according to Google News more than 600 news outlets worldwide.

In between fielding calls from the 202-area code (Washington, D.C.) and the drama unfolding in Cleveland, a composed and sincere Dettelbach talked passionately of his role as one of the nation’s chief law enforcement officials charged with protecting citizens in his region from various forms of crime such as terrorist plots and political and corporate corruption. He was appointed to the post of the United States Attorney for the Northern District post by President Obama in 2009 - the post is a Presidential appointment, subject to confirmation by the US Senate.

He praised the regulations and penalties enacted through the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, such as requiring public companies to include independent members boards of directors and the protection of whistleblowers. Dettelbach said he believes companies with strong ethics and values should also be rewarded.

“In addition to the stick to punish, there should be carrots for doing the right thing,” he said.

Rami A. Farasin, an MBA candidate in the class of 2012, said he achieved several lessons from Dettelbach. "Do the right thing, whenever you are faced with an ethical dilemma. Never be afraid to disagree, even with your bosses," Farasin said. "Ethical and successful managers want their employees to challenge them; especially in today’s work environment, where transparency and free flow of information  are expected, and the use of cell phone cameras and social media outlets are easily and widely accessible by most people."

“The corruption we witness in places like New York and London and the loss of wealth and economic stability of the past have made it harder for your generation to find jobs,” he said. “It is up to you, you are the next generation, to prevent those things from happening on your watch.”