Harshbarger urges attorneys to 'fulfill obligations' as citizens

Issue Februray 2004

Photo by Roger Farrington
Former Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Scott Harshbarger presses for corporate ethics during his address at the Massachusetts Bar Foundation Annual Meeting.
Former Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Scott Harshbarger issued a challenge to attorneys when he delivered the keynote address during the Massachusetts Bar Foundation Annual Meeting on Thursday, Jan. 22 at Sheraton Boston Hotel.

Harshbarger, who now focuses his practice on corporate ethics, urged attorneys to help right the wrong of corporate scandal by using their skills as advice-givers to encourage business leaders go beyond the law to make better decisions.

"It's a democracy and if we remain on the sidelines as citizens and lawyers we fail to fulfill our obligations as citizens," Harshbarger said.

Harshbarger said attorneys should discuss the role lawyers have played in recent corporate fraud scandals and be better advocates for pursuing fair decisions for those in corporations - from the CEOs to the stakeholders. There is no rule, he said, that prevents lawyers from reporting crimes and frauds that seriously hurt other people.

"The issue isn't why we failed to stop that," Harshbarger said. "The question is why is there such a deafening silence about what has failed here."

Harshbarger said lawyers involved in corporate scandals did not report what they were experiencing or document the advice they were giving to corporate leaders and instead went along with decisions being made. He said lawyers have opportunities to use advice and guidance to encourage people to go beyond the law.

"My concern is that we have these (organizations) who do have access to justice … Why are they not getting the best legal advice and not just the best legal representation?"

During the Annual Meeting, the MBF also elected new officers. The new officers are: Anthony K. Stankiewicz, president; Francis A. Ford, treasurer; and Dean Robert V. Ward Jr., secretary. Outgoing President Steven Wollman will serve as past president.

In addition, Wollman announced that MBA Executive Director Abigail Shaine will become the MBF's executive director as well. For nearly a year, Shaine has been serving as acting executive director of the Foundation following the resignation of former MBF Executive Director J. Douglas Havens.