By now you've probably seen enough -- literally -- of Anthony Weiner, the New York City Congressman embroiled in a scandal involving online relationships with several women, including his sending suggestive photos taken from the House of Representatives gym. Members of both parties have called on Weiner to resign.
The raunchy emails from the married Congressman aren't terribly shocking. Several studies have estimated that more than half of men and women are unfaithful to their spouses. The public outrage has stemmed in my opinion not from Weiner's tweets, but his deception.
Rep. Weiner lied to reporters, instructed others to lie and went so far as to invent a completely fallacious story that his Blackberry and Twitter account were hacked. "I was the victim of a prank," he told reporters with whom he snapped and sparred, calling one CNN reporter a "jackass" (video).
In business, reputation is a company's most important asset; no rational individual would buy or sell from a known fraud. On the exchange floor honesty was paramount because it's the only way anybody would trade with you. Who would buy a futures contract from a guy with a reputation for defaulting? Who could trust Bernie Madoff with a 401(k) after his con had been revealed?
We wrote last summer about Warren Buffett's famous remark: It takes years to build a reputation but only minutes to destroy one. The ease with which Weiner lied to every major news outlet in the country naturally challenges the credibility of any Congressman, let alone one known for hyperbole and colorful rhetoric.
While some are minimizing the scandal as unfortunate but not criminal , it's worth remembering that in 2002 Weiner supported and voted for Sarbanes-Oxley, the massive financial re-regulation passed in the wake of the Enron scandal. Among other regulatory measures, the law required CEOs to personally certify the accuracy of corporate documents, levying criminal penalties of up to 20 years in jail and personal fines of up to $5 million for false certifications.
When a CEO certifies a false financial document, the government holds him criminally liable and personally accountable, including potential incarceration. The fallout from Rep. Weiner's blatant fabrication? A temporary leave of absence for counseling, taken at his discretion, all while continuing to receive his Congressional salary.
The double standard brings to mind life on Animal Farm, where "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others" and honesty, a necessity for business, can seem like a nuisance for those clamoring to regulate and control it.
But the hubris is hardly a surprise. In Rep. Weiner's own words, via an email to one of his online followers: "Please understand i am a very important man."
Jonathan Hoenig is managing member at Capitalistpig Hedge Fund LLC.