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Helen Sharkey Presents “Low Man on the Totem Pole: How I Became a White Collar Criminal”

by - May 02, 2017

The Rawls College and the High Plains Chapter of the Institute for Internal Auditors welcomed Helen Sharkey, a professional speaker on ethics and accountability on Thursday March 20. She shared her story, “Low Man on the Totem Pole: How I became a White Collar Criminal,” to students, faculty and members of the High Plains Chapter of the Institute for Internal Auditors.

Sharkey was hired as an accountant in 1996 by Dynegy, an energy trading company located in Houston. She was excited she landed her “dream job,” but soon began to doubt the ethics of the company. She soon became a low-level employee participant in a $300 million structured finance transaction called Project Alpha.

The Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation of Project Alpha, followed by criminal charges brought by the Justice Department against three employees, including Sharkey. In August 2003, she plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and served 28 days in a maximum-security federal prison.

She discussed how her silence and fear to speak up led to a prison sentence and how she could have handled the situation differently. Her story provided interesting insights about ethics in the workplace and highlighted the importance of being accountable.

“I learned so much from Helen Sharkey and know that I will take what I learned with me in my future career as an accounting professional,” said Brittani Lotn, accounting major.

To view pictures from the event, please visit the Rawls College Flickr account.

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