Ethically thinking--Thoughts from a general, a mayor and a good friendGary Oppermorals and ethics, best practices, code of ethics As mortgage originators and members of the mortgage industry, we should strive to hold ourselves to a high standard. Many good and honest people are tempted by money and power to lie, cheat and steal. Perhaps the following thoughts will help you to stay on the right path. What would the folks shopping at 7-11 think? Lt. Gen. Robert Milligan, the former Florida comptroller, regulated mortgage brokers in Florida and signed the checks to pay the state's bills. As a public official, he set a high example. After being elected, Milligan bought a coach airline ticket to fly to a meeting. Florida law allowed him to fly first class but Milligan declined the upgrade. According to Milligan, it didn't pass the "7-11 test." That is, how would the people down at the 7-11 convenience store view what you were about to do? The story stems from an incident that occurred in the late 1980s. President George Bush Sr. needed to know the militarys position on a treaty. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., called the top ranking military officers together. Gen. Al Gray, commandant of the Marine Corps, exclaimed, "They don't think much of the treaty at the 7-11." After an incredulous stare from Crowe, Gray explained that he went down to the 7-11 each Sunday to buy the newspaper. While at the 7-11, he discussed current affairs, including the treaty, with the folks at the store. Subsequently, when questioned by the president regarding the treaty, Crowe gave the president the 7-11 answer. Milligan asks the employees of the Comptroller's Office to apply the "7-11 test" when making a decision. Applying this to you, would the folks at 7-11 think that you are treating your clients fairly? Would the folks at 7-11 think that you are acting honorably and that you have done the right thing? Could 60 Minutes twist your actions into a story? If the camera operators and crew from 60 Minutes followed you around, would they find your life boring and dull? If 60 Minutes could find a story in any of your actions or transactions, then you should re-evaluate your actions. What would the newspaper headline say? Former Weston, Fla. Mayor Harry Rosen stays on the ethical course by asking, What would tomorrow's newspaper headline read? Would my actions create a sizzling headline? Or, would the newspaper pass on reporting my dull and boring life?" Newspapers are interested in controversy. Boy Scouts dont make headlines. Your dull, honest, ethical and boring transactions should not interest any newspaper. What would the good guys do? Since our first day at Orlando, Fla.'s Boone High School, Jeff McKinney has been my best friend. Besides being honest, I believe he is fair and considerate. In knowing what Jeff would do, I know the correct, ethical path. Hopefully, you have a Jeff McKinney with whom you can compare yourself. If you dont, you may want to think about what a friend, mentor, historical religious figure, relative or your cleric would do. Special attention for mortgage brokers As mortgage originators, we have a special responsibility to deal ethically and honestly with our customers. Half-truths are not whole truths; they are hole truths. You and your employees should not tolerate partial, incomplete or misleading disclosures. Business owners and managers establish an offices ethics. Owners and managers should be extraordinarily ethical and honest. Employees should only associate themselves with owners, managers and colleagues who have good reputations in the industry. Fraudulent verifications and altered documents are never right. It is not fair to a customer to jeopardize their loan. It certainly isn't fair to the lender. Encouraging an appraiser to "push" a real estate value is not fair to you, your customer, the appraiser or the lender. Thinking ethically High ethics are not corny. Living ethically will allow you to achieve a better life with less stress. Think about your actions and try each day with every transaction to live a little more ethically today than you did yesterday. You may be surprised at how much better you feel about yourself and the world! You will enjoy more professional success by thinking ethically! Gary Opper is president of Weston, Fla.-based Approved Financial Corporation. He may be reached at (954) 384-4557 or e-mail [email protected].