Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When that MBA's only a mirage

Of course, MGM Mirage's ex-CEO is claiming that his bogus MBA from USC has nothing to do with his resignation. But I took four years of Latin - you can look it up on my Notre Dame Academy transcript - and just because post hoc ergo propter hoc is a logical fallacy doesn't mean it can't be true that when something happens on the heels of something else, there's some causation at work.

If you missed the news (which I saw in the WSJ Online, in an article by Keith Winstein and Tamara Audi - it may require a subscription to access), J. Terrence Lanni stepped down after The Journal started sniffing around about his credentials, and USC said it had no record of his being granted an MBA.

For his part,

Mr. Lanni said, "I must stress that this issue has nothing to do with my decision."

I'm not quite sure why the WSJ was poking around here - did someone dime him, or do they automatically check out everybody they're writing about in this way? - but Mr. Lanni is now gone. (He does remain on the Mirage's board.)

It's actually plausible that he was leaving anyway. Las Vegas is in a downturn; the Mirage is trying to complete the financing of a mega, seemed-like-a-good-idea-when-we-broke-ground condo-hotel complex; and the company's net income is in the hopper.

So why stay?

And Mr. Lanni had a good reason for leaving. (Cough, cough.)

His wife lives in Pasadena, and he wants to be a full-time spouse, rather than a commuter. (No indication on how the Mrs. feels about this arrangement, but she's no doubt like every other wife who just can't wait to have her hubby underfoot full time now that he's retired.)

But back to Lanni's little bio-lie-o.

Apparently the corporate web site's bio claimed that Lanni had an MBA in finance from USC. A "private fraud investigator" - wonder what he was up to? there may be way more to this story - had found "a discrepancy between Mr. Lanni's corporate biography and a database of college degrees accessible to private investigators."

Lanni does have an undergrad from USC. And says that's he's taken MBA classes. But he also claims that he received an honorary MBA.

Unfortunately for Mr. Lanni, the last honorary MBA that USC awarded was given in 1933, well before his date of birth. (Hey, things can be awarded posthumously, and prehumously. Can they be awarded pre-birth?)

Lanni was the guiding force behind the MGM Mirage's big growth spurt.

So he obviously didn't need the MBA.

So why'd he lie?

Or, if he lied in the way-back, why didn't he come clean and not let the lie propagate. Surely, the brief, minor embarrassment that would have accompanied telling some minion that he didn't have his MBA - heh, heh, I never really finished that degree, so best not mention it, or even,  MBA? where did that come from?  - would be preferable to WSJ-level exposure.

How can there be anyone walking around in this day in age - especially someone in a prominent position, as Lanni was - thinking he/she can get away with something that, in the grand scheme of things is a peccadillo, but in the light of the Internet becomes a major deal that involves completely uninterested and disinterested bloggers flapping away about it?


Over a year ago, I wrote about Marilee Jones, the MIT Dean who resigned in disgrace after her false credentials were discovered.

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