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Frustrations of a former sanctions enforcer: Jimmy Gurulé

From 1990 to 1992 while on leave from Notre Dame, Law Professor Jimmy Gurulé served as Assistant U.S. Attorney General, and from 2001 to 2003 during another leave, Gurulé was Undersecretary for Enforcement for the U.S. Treasury Department, with oversight of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which is responsible for enforcing U.S. economic sanctions programs.

Specializing in terrorist financing, money laundering and economic sanctions, Gurulé is currently paying close attention to the trials and tribulations of Standard Chartered Bank in New York, which will find out in a hearing next week if it will lose its license for questionable dealings with the government of Iran.

New York’s financial regulator filed a report accusing Standard Chartered PLC of scheming with Iran to hide more than $250 billion in illegal transactions, allowing the bank to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in fees. The New York State Department of Financial Services has threatened to revoke the license of Standard Chartered Bank, a U.S. unit of the London-based bank, to operate in the state, and the bank will have to justify why it should be allowed to keep its New York banking license.

Like any good economic sanctions enforcer, Gurulé is a big fan of holding bank officials accountable for serious financial crimes. In the case of Standard Chartered, the order cites tens of thousands of pages of internal memos, emails and other records, which don’t bode well for the bank.

Gurulé says, “Standard Chartered maintains that the Iranian financial transactions were lawful. However, in the documents cited in the complaint, senior bank officials expressed concern that engaging in such transactions could subject management in the U.S. and London ‘to personal reputational damages and/or serious criminal liability.’ At the upcoming hearing, hopefully Standard Chartered Bank officials will explain why they were concerned that these ‘lawful’ transactions could subject them to ‘serious criminal liability.’”

Gurulé says Standard Chartered is simply the latest in a string of cases involving corrupt bank officials purposely violating U.S. economic and trade sanctions in order to reap a profit from rogue regimes such as Iran. He points to Lloyds Bank, Barclays, Credit Suisse, ABN Amro and ING Bank, and says it’s up to the U.S. Department of Justice to hold bank officials accountable for serious financial crimes.

“The failure of the DOJ to hold corrupt bank officials criminally responsible for serious violations of anti-money laundering laws and regulations has contributed to an environment of impunity,” says Gurulé.  Bank officials who knowingly and purposely violate U.S. anti-money laundering laws and economic sanctions prohibiting U.S. and foreign banks operating in the U.S. from providing financial services to sanctioned countries such as Iran, Sudan and Syria, know that there is little chance that they will be held criminally liable for their crimes. Lax oversight by the U.S. federal regulators has also contributed to this crisis.”

He must be missing his role as a crime fighter right about now, but Gurulé (also a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles) is instead voicing his frustrations through the media.  NPR (Morning Edition), New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters, Bloomberg/Businessweek, Huffington Post.


Timing is Everything

I spend a large chunk of my existence trying to convince national and international news reporters, producers, editors, correspondents and bloggers to quote Notre Dame faculty in their stories, and I have come to realize just how many variables can make or break pitch.

Although it’s nearly impossible to predict anything in this business, the one thing you can always bank on is that timing is everything. If you’re pitching experts to add insight to news of the day, get the commentary out there as fast as you possibly can.

The first hurdle is noticing the news while it’s still “breaking news” or shortly thereafter. We all know reporters live to scoop one another, so join the race.    

The concept is simple, but not easily achievable.  How often are we actually scanning headlines right when a new story breaks? If we do nail that part, how often is the right faculty expert sitting there waiting for your call?  If he or she does happen to immediately answer your call or email, how often is the requested commentary actually sent “at your earliest convenience?” Side note: getting chummy with your experts is a really good idea, because then you can say what you really mean… “ASAP!!!”

On a couple of occasions, for me, the stars have aligned.

One year ago, Emad Shahin (the Kroc Institute’s Henry R. Luce Associate Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding) quickly stepped forward to answer my request for commentary about the revolution in Tunisia. He was rewarded for his efforts with his first taste of media attention as a Notre Dame scholar. And, it just so happened that his insight included a prediction that “the Arab world will never be the same,” and that Egypt would be next. When his predictions came true and Egypt WAS next, the fact that Shahin is an Egyptian scholar who formerly taught at the American University in Cairo, and he continued to answer each and every request with the speed of an Olympic sprinter, fanned a firestorm of media attention. Then, Shahin jetted off to Egypt to witness the revolution and became the media’s go-to expert “live from Tahrir Square.”

That type of thing certainly doesn’t happen every day and I don’t expect it will ever happen again for me. However, it never would have happened at all had Shahin not acted fast on Tunisia.

Another less-sensational, though no less appreciated, case-in-point involves antitrust expert Joseph Bauer in the Notre Dame Law School.  One day, I was trolling news headlines when I noticed a story (only moments old) declaring the Justice Department was suing to prevent AT&T from acquiring T-Mobile USA and displacing Verizon as the nation’s largest wireless carrier. Not knowing any antitrust experts personally, I found Bauer on the Law School’s web site and emailed him a shot-in-the dark request for commentary. Much to my surprise and delight, he responded immediately with exactly what I wanted.  Before long, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Forbes and others were calling and he ended up being quoted in numerous top outlets, including “going viral” via the Associated Press.

There are many media savvy scholars at Notre Dame. Unfortunately for them, I also have to hold up my end. Not very often do all parties get it right…at the same time.

Timing really is everything.


Emad Shahin & David Cortright witness “Phase Two” of the Egyptian Revolution

Emad El-Din Shahin and David Cortright, colleagues in Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, witnessed several people being severely beaten last weekend in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

There to conduct research on the revolution of nearly a year ago, neither could have fully expected the brutal déjà vu they encountered in Tahrir Square, ahead of parliamentary elections that begin Monday (34 confirmed dead and 1,700 injured in clashes between Egyptian soldiers and demonstrators).

Visiting Cairo for one week, Cortright, director of policy studies at the Kroc Institute and an expert in non-violent social change, called Sunday a “shocking, sobering” day.

“Panicked crowds frantically rushed from the police,” Cortright emailed. “We saw several uniformed soldiers savagely beating an already prostrate demonstrator, clubs repeatedly pounding his motionless form. Was he one of the fatalities? Nearby, a young man struggled to wrestle out of the grip of soldiers, staggering under the blows of continuous whacks to his head, arms and shoulders.” Read more and see photos in Cortright’s blog.

Shahin, the Henry R. Luce Associate Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding, is on academic leave in Cairo, spending the fall semester researching the revolution. A former professor of politics at the American University of Cairo, Shahin has written and been interviewed extensively on the Egyptian revolution. In fact, he was in Tahrir Square when former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down.  From Cairo, Shahin conducted multiple interviews with The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, CNN, Charlie Rose, and BBC, among many other national and international news outlets.

“No ND expert within memory has become the overnight go-to for the international media quite the way Shahin was this winter,” wrote John Nagy in Notre Dame Magazine.

Today, Shahin finds himself reliving the past in “Phase Two of the revolution.” He says “Protestors in Tahrir Square feel the transitional process had been flawed and slow. They are re-claiming the pro-democracy revolution they started on January 25.”

Shahin’s media contributions this week include interviews with The New York Times,  CNN International,  CBC, BBC4, and a CNN.com op-ed Why Egypt needs a second revolution.

“Blind Spots” and Penn State: We’re not as ethical as we think, says Ann Tenbrunsel

Last spring, Ann Tenbrunsel, professor of business ethics in the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, along with her Harvard co-author Max Bazerman, published their book “Blind Spots: Why We Fail to do What’s Right and What to do About it.” The book demonstrates that when confronted with an ethical dilemma, most of us like to think we would stand up for our principles, but we are not as ethical as we think we are.

A month later, Tenbrunsel and Bazerman published an op-ed about their research in the New York Times.

I pitched the “blind spots” research to national news outlets and received requests for copies of the book from the Chronicle of Higher Education and MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan Show. We overnighted the books, and I waited not-so-patiently for feedback.

Both liked “Blind Spots” and remained interested in interviewing Tenbrunsel as she went on to talk with NPR, Forbes, Freakonomics and The Guardian, among others. However as often can happen with stories that are not “time sensitive,” our “book request interviews” repeatedly took a backseat to breaking news.

Enter the Penn State scandal.

It took me a few days to even realize the awful story that has dominated news headlines allegedly went unchecked for years, in large part, because of “blind spots.” A reintroduction of Tenbrunsel to the Chronicle and the Dylan Ratigan Show was successful. And, David Brooks wrote about Tenbrunsel’s blind spots research in his New York Times column.

The pitch continues.

Tenbrunsel says “motivated blindness” is people’s tendency to not notice the unethical behavior of others because it’s in their best interest not to notice.

“Those who were in a position to do more to help the young victims in the Penn State scandal didn’t do so because they also were in a position to lose the most,” she says. “They were motivated not to see what they didn’t want to see.  They were subject to blind spots created by a conflict of interest between doing what is right and protecting their own jobs and by misguided loyalty to long-standing relationships and the institution of which they were a part.” 

Tenbrunsel hopes her research can help eliminate such “conflicts of interest” by creating an awareness of the psychology behind them.

Undercover Academic: George A. Lopez

When I get a “break” from my hectic routine, I usually catch up on laundry or do some extra, much-needed house cleaning.

 My friend, George A. Lopez, one of Notre Dame’s (and the world’s) top peace scholars, also has “down time” on occasion. He uses his a bit differently, however.

Lopez holds the Hesburgh Chair in Peace Studies at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, and when he’s not teaching courses like “Terrorism, Peace and other Inconsistencies” to students from all over the world, he heads to New York and Washington to lend his expertise on economic sanctions to State Department and United Nations officials. You know… ordinary stuff like that.  He also advises the European Union and numerous governments, foundations and organizations involved in human rights, international affairs and peace research. Typical, really.

Lopez is the author of six books and more than two dozen articles on economic sanctions and just concluded a 10-month term on the United Nations Panel of Experts for monitoring the sanctions on arms and nuclear material on North Korea. (Panels of experts are comprised of independent analysts who point out to the UN Security Council where there are lapses of sanctions enforcement.) Last year, he served as a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington D.C.

For someone with such “secret agent man” responsibilities, Lopez, or “G-Lo” as we affectionately call him here in public relations, is refreshingly jovial and hilariously funny. “It just goes with the name,” he says.  After G-Lo appeared as “The Specialist” discussing sanctions and Syria on MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan Show, my colleagues and I began referring to him as—what else?– “The Specialist.”  It fits, don’t ya think?

“The Specialist” is my friend because he makes me laugh, but more importantly, because he makes me look good. He has interviewed with the New York Times on Syria; Bloomberg on Libya; and NPR and the Christian Science Monitor, among many others, on Syria.

Lopez spent this week going back and forth between NY and DC, meeting with more “Deep Throat” types. He visited the US mission to the UN in New York and met with the head of the sanctions unit to compare notes on a range of sanctions cases and issues, flew to DC for a series of meetings at the State Department and with various other contacts in the city regarding sanctions issues; attended the morning and lunch sessions of Notre Dame’s Forum on Global Development; then flew back to New York for, among other things, a series of meetings at the UN. 

That’s all he can tell me for now about what he was up to in NY and DC (or else he’d have to kill me). I just hope he finds at least a little bit of time to dust his house and wash his socks.

Where in the World is David Cortright?

 You never know where Notre Dame faculty will turn up. Their research leads them all over the globe in search of answers to help improve the world.

Last month, David Cortright, director of policy studies at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, spent a week in Kabul, Afghanistan. 

His mission: to update his findings from last year’s report, “Afghan Women Speak: Enhancing Security and Human Rights in Afghanistan,” and to learn how the security transition and initial stages of Western troop withdrawal are affecting the prospects for peace and human rights.

“Entering an active war zone quickens the pulse,” Cortright wrote in his blog, “but during our brief trip, all was calm in Kabul. No attacks occurred in the city, although the steady pace of military operations continued in the provinces, as did reported drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read Cortright’s CNN op-ed “The Scary Prospect of Global Drone Warfare.”
Watch his drones interview on PBS Newshour.

“During interviews with more than a dozen Afghan women leaders, researchers, international aid workers and former Afghan government officials,” Cortright says, “We learned of persistent dangers and threats to the country’s future.”


Cortright says real progress has been achieved over the past decade in improving the status of Afghan women, especially in the areas of education and health care. However, he says, as the U.S. and other countries begin to scale back their military involvement in Afghanistan, the challenge for the future will be preserving the gains women have achieved while ensuring greater protection for Afghan civilians, especially women…that will require a shift in strategy away from military combat operations toward a greater emphasis on development and human security.

Watch Cortright’s interview on MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan Show, “Unwinnable War: Getting out of Afghanistan”

Writing a Pitch Reporters Won’t Ditch

I love pitching the research/expertise of Notre Dame’s amazing faculty to the national media. It’s like the thrill of fishing. You cast out the bait and wait eagerly to hook a big one. But, sometimes the “fish” aren’t biting and it could have a lot to do with your “lure.”

There is nothing more frustrating than blasting out a couple hundred pitches and getting a wimpy response, or worse yet…nothing at all! It’s the nature of the business, though. More often than not, you can almost hear crickets chirping as you wait for the phone to ring or the email to ping. There are plenty of reasons why. Reporters are hounded by PR-types like me all day, every day, and I’m sure many pitches go unread simply because the reporters are past deadline, already have the quotes they need, got pulled into some other breaking news story, and so on, and so on. There is one thing you can do, however, to make rejection easier to live with. Let it not be your fault. Don’t send stupid pitches.

Here are a few of my rules-of-thumb for pitch writing:

Be brief. You have already achieved a small victory if a reporter opens your email, so don’t blow your opportunity by including too much detail. Keep the pitch short and to the point.

Be casual. Try and make your pitch sound un-pitchy and more like a casual conversation with a friend.

Jazz it up without being too sensationalistic. Rather than writing it this way… “Notre Dame Finance Professor Richard Sheehan, who specializes in the economics of sports, says the NBA lockout could last a long time thanks to bad negotiators…” Try leading it off this way instead: “Sheehan says ‘If, by chance, I’m ever taken hostage, please don’t let David Stern and Adam Silver negotiate for my release!'”    

See Sheehan in Forbes: NBA Lockout Not About Much, NBC Sports: NBA owners play “ultimate game” poorly, so players won’t cave, and USA Today: NBA preseason gone – regular season next?

Use hyperlinks. They help keep the pitch brief, yet offer a route to more information if the journalist so desires.

Include video if you are pitching TV outlets. It allows producers to gauge your expert’s on-air presence. But, don’t attach a file…hyperlink it, and only if the video clip is SHORT.

Don’t forget to include the faculty member’s contact information and make sure that person is accessible. The last thing you want to happen is to have a New York Times reporter respond to your pitch… and come to find out your expert is on academic leave in Guam.

Use a small font. Journalists often work from their iPhones on the run and this allows them to still be able to read your pitch while out “in the field.”

And finally, when those hits do start to roll in, don’t forget to thank the journalists. They expect pitches. I believe thank-yous are a pleasant surprise and go a long way in building relationships! Happy pitching…

Project iPad

Notre Dame in August launched a first-of-its-kind iPad study, creating the university’s first-ever paperless course (Project Management) and somewhat of a celebrity status for assistant professor of management Corey Angst, who for a time, had to turn away media interviews to carve out enough time to teach his class. 

Angst is teaching/piloting the course, which is the first phase of a year-long Notre Dame study of eReaders. His students were loaned iPads for the semester and have been using them to manage creative projects, such as developing a guest-run coffee shop for South Bend’s Center for the Homeless. 

The Notre Dame iPad story started with a Notre Dame PR story and video and took off  like crazy. It generated a lot of buzz on blogs and Twitter, and even got the attention of actress Alyssa Milano, who has more than 1,000,000 Twitter followers.

 Local TV affiliates WNDU and WSBT covered the story, and it was featured on more than 50 news sites and blogs, including TIME.com, Forbes.com and America magazine.  As a result, Notre Dame was ranked among “5 Technologically Decked-Out Schools You Wish You Went To.”

 Why was this story such a big success? A number of factors:

1) Great topic: Easy to understand, applicable to anyone interested in technology
2) Timely with the start of the academic year and the relatively recent launch of the iPad
3) Notre Dame doing something new, leading a trend
4) Camera-friendly and articulate faculty member and students
5) Short, entertaining video with great visuals (10,000 YouTube hits)

These are good criteria to apply to any potential story that you think might be of interest to media, whether print, broadcast or Web. With all of these elements in place, chances are high that someone will pay attention.

As Angst’s 7-week course concludes this month, he still is getting requests for interviews, information and advice about iPads…including from members of Notre Dame’s football and basketball coaching staffs, who are circulating the iPad video link and want to know how to more effectively use iPads for recruiting.

Technology can be Dirty

Last night, as it got later and later and dinner dishes were still not cleared away and the stuff I normally have well under control by 10 p.m. on a Sunday began taunting me, I had a sudden realization.  I am sitting at my kitchen table pitching a certain Notre Dame faculty expert to national media outlets, while trying not to let my feet touch the filthy floor that has been neglected because (as we all do) I am working from home…again.

Laptops and iPhones and social media, etc. are nice and all, but being plugged in 24-7 certainly has its domestic disadvantages.  Sometimes I can keep it all balanced fairly well and stem the tidal wave of filth and disorder that seems to have become my home’s natural state.  Other times, it  beats me down so fiercely that I want to curl up and cry.  But, ND public relations got a lot of big media hits this week!

Now about that filth…

 Having a husband who does all the cooking is a blessing that I admit I often take for granted.  If I planned our meals, my three girls (10, 9 and 5) would eat hot, well-balanced meals, but dinner would in no way resemble the mouth-watering works of art that my husband creates.  Jeff earns high praise with each new masterpiece, sometimes in the form of “Daddy, this is the best dinner you have EVER made.”  Other times, simply in what is not said…but moaned and groaned in delight.  And, our girls are developing a passion for cooking and appreciation for fine cuisine.  We all think his best dishes are his chicken parmesan, beef stroganoff, chicken paprikash, spaghetti with home-made meatballs and home-made pasta sauce with tomatoes fresh from the garden.  There are many, many more.  And he doesn’t use recipes.

 Ok, that said, Chef Jeff is like a culinary Tasmanian Devil in the kitchen.   Sauces fly, utensils drop, spices miss pans and bake like cement onto our stovetop, and our linoleum between the island and stove is scarred from dropped knives.  I don’t know how the man has managed to keep all his toes.   I  have accepted the fact that, since he creates the luscious meals, it is my job to clean up after him, but sometimes when I see that “I-have-a-great-idea-for-dinner” gleam in his eye, I  get a teeny urge to suggest McDonalds.  And, I hate McDonalds.   I have tried working alongside him…washing dishes as he goes, wiping slop off the floor, etc…helps a little.

 Maybe I’m not the only one who has had to stand on a stool to scrub bar-b-que sauce off the CEILING, or from the underneath side of the space-saver microwave.  If it weren’t so exhausting, it would really be funny.  He’s like the Ty Pennington of the kitchen.  (actually, he and Ty could have been twins separated at birth, but that’s another blog in itself)

 So, back to the filth.  No, it’s not directly the fault of technology, but I have to blame something.  And,  it’s not just from Jeff, although, bless his heart, he’s a one man wrecking crew and dedicated spreader of filth (or as I call it, sludge).  Three daughters….you wouldn’t think little girls could create such nasty, sticky, slimy, globs of yuk.  Being a neat-freak at heart, I, long ago, had to let go of my instinctive urge to keep order and cleanliness, knowing that if I did not…precious moments with the girls would be lost.  I hate it that while I’m on the floor playing Memory with Lily or Rummy with Madison or kicking a soccer ball with Riley, there, in the back of my mind, stifled but not entirely silenced, is that little tug reminding me that at that very moment, dust bunnies may well be carrying valuables out of our house.  I refuse to be one of those people who keeps a perfect home, but misses the most important times with the kids.  So, I have forced myself to ignore it, though it torments me constantly.

 Ok, now to the random stuff that plagues me and makes me wonder if we are the only family capable of creating such omnipresent filth.  Have you ever spent an entire Saturday cleaning…doing 8,000 loads of laundry, dishes, dusting, vacuuming, mopping, sterilizing toilets, wiping door knobs and light switches with disinfectant wipes, removing couch cushions to hand vac the virtual zoo of repulsiveness that manages to collect there, etc.  Really, a day of serious de-sludging that you stop and survey upon completion with a sense of satisfaction for providing a clean and orderly home for your family…. only to discover the stuff  you missed mocking you out loud?

 Wiping and disinfecting the tabletop after meals doesn’t even break the surface of getting the job done.  How do the drips that you THINK are landing on the table or the lap or the floor, also manage to befoul the sides, edges and legs of the table and chairs?  Seriously?  Do children wait until you turn your back and purposely smear it on?  How do the bottoms of the chair legs become caked with that unidentifiable black stuff that immediately will streak up a perfectly, just-mopped floor the second they are scooted in or out from the table?  What the heck is it anyway…compacted dust?  I have no earthly idea.  I just know it is my enemy. No one ever told me I would have to turn chairs upside down to remove build-up.  And have you ever actually attempted to do this?  It almost requires a chisel.  How does dinner schrapnel hit the vertical blinds and the spines of cookbooks and the walls of the island and even the blades of the ceiling fan.  HOW?  I never see it happening.  Sometimes I look at our floor and think… Wait, this isn’t my house…it’s the Lambda Chi house at Ball State on a Sunday morning….how did I get here?  And speaking of ceiling fans… How in the world does dust accumulate in such repulsive globs on a thing that spends all of its time whirling in circles? 

 Please tell me I’m not the only one who, upon finishing what I believe to be a thorough house-cleaning, becomes sucker punched by the sheer volume of what else needs to be done?  Window sills make me crazy. Can’t flies go somewhere else to die?  Floor boards, window smudges, the fronts and sides of the refrigerator and dishwasher and basically any vertical or horizontal surface in the kitchen.  The tops of the cabinets in the kitchen where the decor mostly escapes eye-level scrutiny.  The tops of armoirs where silk flowers decorate with the evil intention of attracting more dust than the ceiling fans.  Maybe it’s a competition.   Do people actually regularly wash walls and cabinets and chair rungs and…heck, even TV screens? 

 I have made it sound like we live in a pit, but most anyone would walk in and think it was a fairly clean and tidy house.  I just needed to vent a little because although I’ve tabled my neat-freak obsession for the sake of family time…and (let’s be honest) bringing my job home each day… I hear it’s not good to bottle emotions.

 This rant, by-the-way, was born last night when I forced myself to go to bed despite our kitchen floor needing to be shoveled, swept and mopped.  I woke up at 5am and my normal morning pleasure over the start of a fresh new day immediately became clouded by the reminder that I would have to make the girls’ breakfast while side-stepping globs of nastiness.  So, for the first time ever, I mopped the floor at 5am on a Monday morning. 

 Ok, I feel better.  I just won’t look around too much past the now spotless, bleachified kitchen floor.  It’s perfection will only last as long as it takes the girls to…never mind, too late