Writing Sample 1The following is an Op-ed published in the Philadelphia Inquirer that I wrote for Senator Jon S. Corzine with his minor edits. Other writing samples are available on request.
Recovering from the Enron debacle:
It's time to restore confidence in both business and politics
In a regulatory sense, Enron was a train wreck waiting to happen. Now that the crash has come, Enron's wreckage has brought to light a number of fundamental deficiencies, not only in the oversight of auditors, but also with respect to pension safety and campaign-finance reform.
Enron highlights the urgency of ending the conflicts of interest that undermine the independence of the auditing function. Supposedly "independent" auditors are earning fees as consultants. Consultants are earning fees by serving as supposedly "independent" auditors. To top it off, these questionable activities are all self-regulated by the accountants themselves.
We've forgotten that, while public corporations pay for auditing services, the function is intended to benefit the public at large - to provide the confidence that what they see is what they get in their financial statements. Such confidence is crucial to the fair and effective operation of financial markets and, as with other public goods, it should fall to the government to ensure it.
Specifically, we need to create and enforce clear "scope of practice" rules for auditors, limit the sharing of key employees between auditors and their clients, enhance the ability of the Securities and Exchange Commission to oversee the auditing function and strengthen the independence of the Financial Accounting Standards Board. To that end, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) and I are proposing legislation that would help restore a measure of public confidence in our accounting industry.
As for 401(k) and other defined contribution pension plans, these, too, are in urgent need of reform. With baby boomers moving toward retirement, government created the 401(k) program to encourage retirement savings by allowing workers and employers to defer paying income taxes on contributions made to a pension plan. This incentive has been effective, but the rules make no distinction between encouraging prudent, diversified investment and encouraging risky, concentrated investment.
In my 25 years of investing for myself and managing the investments of others, one fundamental principle has always guided my thinking - diversify, diversify, diversify. The tragic evaporation of Enron employees' life savings resulted, in large part, from ignoring this basic tenet of prudent investment.
Worse than mere concentration, in Enron's case, with 62 percent of 401(k) assets tied up in Enron stock, employees lost their jobs and retirement savings in one fell swoop.
The Pension Protection and Diversification Act that Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) and I have proposed will help protect employees from the risks associated with concentrating retirement savings in the stock of a single company. Our bill places a 20-percent cap on the amount of an individual's 401(k) account invested in a single stock. This cap in no way limits individuals from investing other funds as they see fit - but it will restrict the level of risk and direct tax incentives to prudent retirement savings.
Our bill would limit the amount of time employers could prevent employees from selling matching company stock contributions to only 90 days from vesting. The bill also eliminates administrative lockdowns of sales by employees. Surely, individuals should be able to adjust their portfolios under changed circumstances.
Finally, it is difficult to talk about the long failure of government to act in the public interest without also noting the substantial presence of special interests in the fund-raising that fuels our political campaigns.
We don't yet know all the facts about the administration and Enron or any causal connections between contributions and decisions in the executive branch or Congress. But one thing is absolutely certain: If we continue under the current rules, we will forfeit public confidence in our democracy. In political life, as in the markets, the presence or the appearance of conflicts of interest are both destructive.
Enron should be the straw that breaks the back of the opposition to campaign-finance reform. It's time not just to say, but to demand - no more Enrons!
Writing Sample 2This is a listicle I wrote that was ultimately published with minor edits by a large online outlet:
When the cloud starts to dominate gaming, everything will change. One glaring reason is that the average person will not shell out $600 for the latest console when they can get the same experience streaming games from the cloud on devices they already own. Many players three years from now won’t even own a console. With that, what changes are coming for gamers with cloud gaming expansion in the marketplace? In the listicle printed below, [name redacted], [public company]’s Director of Marketing & Business Development, Digital Media breaks down four things certain to change for gamers when the cloud rolls in:
You’ll pay more. While the hardware requirements will be far less with cloud gaming (you will pay much less upfront), you will end up paying more for your gaming. You could pay $500 for a high-end console that will last you about three years. Then a few games at $60 apiece—that’s around $20 per month. In the cloud, however, you will use your old hardware—but you’re going to pay up to $40 per month in subscriptions for both games and data.
You’ll play more. With the cloud powering things, you can go fully mobile. Particularly with the advent of 5G, phones and tablets will suddenly become miniature, portable consoles with the ability to play the same games you once stayed home to play. Even at home, you can use that older TV you no longer use—with the cloud it becomes a game-worthy console. DIYers: you can bet we’ll see more build-your-own-console kits, too!
You’ll have more friends gaming with you. That friend who comes to your house and immediately jumps on the Xbox but refuses to buy their own? Or your other friend who wouldn’t know Fortnite from FourSquare? In the cloud, they can both play on the phones and tablets they own and a lot more of them are going to do just that.
You’ll use alot more data. Data for gaming is not like video data. Streaming benefits from data compression—but compression is hard and doing it well takes time. When Netflix does compression, they do it in advance. Yet when it comes to the two-way live action that gaming requires (e.g., when that alien is coming and you need to shoot it now), even a second delay is not okay. So, data will be at a premium. Expect new ISPs and data providers to roll out higher tiers of data plans for gamers.
Writing Sample 3This is a pitch I wrote that ultimately garnered our client a national broadcast media opportunity:
SUBJ: How your food choices directly impact the rural American opioid crisis
The opioid crisis has hit America’s farmers particularly hard. A major cause of the brutal impact is our failure to pay our farmers a living wage. These folks dutifully grow the food this country eats but are unable to feed their own families. The intense financial daily stress they face makes farmers uniquely vulnerable to drug addiction and suicide. Recent research shows:
- Suicide rates in agriculture are five times higher than the national average — and double the rate for military veterans [link to report];
- People living in rural areas are almost twice as likely as urban residents to overdose on opioids;
- Overdoses rose by 10 percent above the national average for every $10,000 reduction in net farm income [link to report]; and
- Three in four farmers and farm workers (74 percent) are or have been directly affected by opioid abuse [link to report].
Ok, so what can be done about it? Consumers making better, more educated choices is everything.
[Name Redacted] grew up on a struggling farm and founded [Company Name] to be part of the solution. [Company Name], featured on [National Broadcast Show] in March of 2019, works with hundreds of independent farmers to deliver ethically cultivated meat and fish to thousands of American homes every month via its extremely popular subscription box service. Most importantly, the hundreds of independent farmers working with [Company Name] get paid a fair and sustainable wage for the essential work they do.
We’re offering you an opportunity to speak with [Client First Name] about her entrepreneurial journey and the fascinating work she’s doing now with [Company Name]. She’ll explain to your audience what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in today’s economy and how she is fighting for the survival of America’s farmers.