(By Joe Koletar) Crain’s New York Business of February 2-8, 2015 carries the following article:

“The house that Ira built: Trial begins for mining maven Ira Rennert, Accused of Looting his Company to Build the Nation’s Largest Private Mansion,” by Aaron Elstein, page 1.

The article cites information from estimates and other sources indicating that Mr. Rennert, who later would be convicted of wrong-doing, seems to have gone a bit far in the view of some. His mansion is described as having: 29 bedrooms, 39 bathrooms, 3 dining rooms, 3 swimming pools, a 164-seat theater, gymnasium, basketball court, and bowling alley. Its assessed tax value is reported to be $248 million; its property taxes last year were $756 thousand, and its estimated size is 62 thousand square feet.

Ordered by a federal jury to return $118.2 million plus interest to his defunct company, Mr. Rennert’s current legal situation is actually not the issue. For this posting, the issue is our society’s concept of “More.” If one slice of rich pie is good, are four slices that much better? Some wealthy and famous people – like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet – are reported to have arranged to give most of their accumulated wealth away to charities.

The game is over. You and your team have won. Now what do you do with all the trophies? An old Texas oil baron is reported to have once said, “Hell, son, it ain’t the money. It’s just how we keep score.”

Which brings us to an observation once made by the noted novelist, William Styron, who once referred to “The American bitch-goddess. Success.”

Indeed, how much “success” is enough? Is “more” always better than “enough?” We address such issues in The A.B.C.’s of Behavioral Forensics. What seems to prompt excessive behavior?
Ego? Love of self (Narcissism)? Clinical or sub-clinical psychosis? The fact, in the long run, seems to be it is all a game of some sort, and the kid with the most marbles can decide what
they want to do with them once they have “won” the “game.”

This would be an amusing commentary on human nature were it not, in more than a few instances, so closely connected to human suffering: jobs lost, savings depleted, bankruptcies and mortgage foreclosures, etc. Is the game so important that what the military calls “collateral damage” is seen as just an unfortunate circumstance of little concern?

More than a few entertainers have used the concept of “excess” to be funny: Dolly Parton and her bust size; Dean Martin in acting drunk; Woody Allen with his neuroses; Rodney Dangerfield and being a loser; Jerry Lewis with ineptness. These excesses make us laugh and we enjoy the entertainment, but the raise a somewhat simple question:

When does it stop being funny?

Join us for more insights into behavioral forensics (behind fraud and similar white collar crimes) from the authors of A.B.C.s of Behavioral Forensics (Wiley, 2013): Sri Ramamoorti, Ph. D., Daven Morrison, M.D., and Joe Koletar, D.P.A., along with Vic Hartman, J.D. These distinguished experts come from the disciplines of psychology, medicine, accounting, law, and law enforcement to explain and prevent fraud. Because we are inspired to bring to light and address the fraud problems in today’s headlines, we encourage our readers to come back and revisit us regularly at BringingFreudtoFraud.com.

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