What’s The Worst Thing That Can Happen?

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I’ve been reminiscing and feeling sentimental lately about my days globetrotting around South America for KPMG Consulting, JP Morgan, and BearingPoint.  Another potential opportunity to work in the region surfaced and I immediately jumped at it without thinking.

I’ve since reconsidered and recommitted to my clients here, some other interesting business opportunities, and this blog and my book.  As much as I like to travel, especially in that region, and as much as I would like to be Executive Platinum again on American Airlines, extended time away from home and my Rottie just doesn’t fit anymore. 
And then I saw this news flash on the Zuckerman Spaeder LLP site about a kidnapping case they’re litigating.  

Zuckerman Spaeder LLP Gains Ground in International Case
April 11, 2008

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of a Zuckerman Spaeder LLP client who was kidnapped and tortured while working for a private contractor in the Philippines. This important win by partners Cy Smith and Andrew Torrez paves the way for a long-awaited trial.

The case involves Azhar Khan, an accountant who worked in the Manila office of the Parsons Corporation, a global construction firm. Khan was kidnapped on in May 2001, and a ransom demand was sent to his employer, Parsons, which immediately seized control of the negotiations. Parsons refused to pay the ransom demanded while neglecting to provide Khan’s wife with the ransom demand so that his family could secure his release. Khan was then imprisoned for three weeks, chained to a cement floor, mutilated, and subjected to an attempted hanging. After three weeks, the kidnappers sent a portion of Mr. Khan’s ear to Parsons, who relented and finally paid the ransom that was initially demanded, which resulted in Khan’s release.

Following Khan’s release, Parsons sought to reduce his pay and benefits, reneged on commitments to pay his medical bills, and threatened to post Mr. Khan to another foreign office rife with kidnappings…

I was reminded of the fact that never while I was traveling in Mexico City, Monterrey, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Bogotá, Cartagena, San Salvador, and Sao Paulo, did I ever have an ironclad understanding or written agreement of what either KPMG Consulting, JP Morgan, and later BearingPoint would do if I had ever been kidnapped.   The response we were given when asking about these contingencies was that publishing or revealing these arrangements, even to their own employees, would make us vulnerable to kidnappers in and of itself.  
I was so much younger then (I’m older than that now…), and also very hungry for the power, prestige and adventure that went along with these assignments.  I also earned over a million miles on American Airlines, millions of points at Starwood and the eternal gratitude of many of the people I met along the way for my genuine interest in their culture and generous tips.  It was an idyllic existence, but one I realize now could have ended in tragedy for my family a thousand times.  
That’s not why I won’t do it again. I would if I could, but I will now do it on my terms and make sure I know and my family knows what risks I’m taking.  I’ll also make sure that the total cost benefit makes sense.  The experiences I had changed my life and made it richer in ways money can’t buy.  But my eye is more cynical now and I am not so giving of my time and commitment at the expense of my life here, and potentially, my life.

Someone from Zuckerman Spaeder was looking for information on restatement clawbacks.  Note to them:  Go here for a better post than the one Google directed you to.)

1 reply
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    On my first trip to Brazil (about 10 yrs ago) while working for PwC, I was accompanied by a security firm that had worked on over 40 kidnappings that year. I asked and fortunately, none of the kidnappees they were working to rescue had been clients under their protection, or so they claimed. Later, when working for a $2B manufacturer and frequently traveling to “high risk” countries, our risk management guy gave me a card with a phone number to call and a code number to give in the event I was kidnapped. That sounded well and good, but unlike law enforcement, I don’t think kidnappers give you one free phone call! Perhaps it was intended for the kidnappers to call that number and then Russel Crowe would swoop down and rescue me “ala” Proof of Life. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a good flick where Meg Ryan’s husband gets kidnapped in a made-up Latin American country.

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