Franklin Templeton is an unforgiving company, unless your name is Johnson.
Amy Cooper is the subject of this week’s two-minute hate. She was playing with her dog in Central Park’s “Ramble” when she was approached by Christian Cooper (they are not related), a bird-watcher who frequents the Ramble, who asked her to put her dog on a leash, as is required in the area. Amy Cooper, who gives every indication of considering herself a nice Manhattan liberal, said she felt threatened by the mien of the … 57-year-old Harvard-educated bird-watching enthusiast, and she called the police, emphasizing that the man she was calling about was African American.
Christian Cooper documented the episode on his cellphone, that video was uploaded to the Internet, and social media did what social media does. Amy Cooper almost immediately was fired from her job at Franklin Templeton, where she managed the investment firm’s insurance portfolio. “We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton,” the firm insisted in a tweet accompanied by an image of the firm’s mascot, Ben Franklin, who had some pretty nasty views about race and who was in no way involved in the founding of Franklin Templeton — the company simply appropriated Franklin’s name and likeness when the original firm, Franklin Distributors, was founded by Rupert H. Johnson Sr., whose descendants still control the company.
So, racism will not be tolerated at Franklin Templeton. Would you like to know what is?
In 2002, Chuck Johnson was a third-generation rich guy, the grandson of Franklin Templeton’s founder and the son of its then-CEO, working his way around a company rife with nepotism — the CEO had seven children, all of whom worked at the firm at one time or another. Chuck was earning a seven-figure income and in the running to take over for his father as CEO when, in a fit of drunken rage, he slammed his wife into a kitchen stove hard enough to break the bones of her face. He was later convicted of felony assault and incarcerated for two months. After his imprisonment, he quickly returned to the family business, starting Tano, a wealth-management firm supported in part by business relationships with Franklin, in 2004. Franklin and Tano continued to grow intimately connected to one another, and in 2013 Johnson joined Franklin Resources’ board of directors, a position he held until February of this year. To say that it was unusual for a company with the better part of $1 trillion in assets under management to name a man who had been convicted of a felony to its board would be a great understatement.
Franklin executives insisted that Chuck was uniquely qualified for the position thanks to his experience … at Franklin, and at Tano, a family office he founded with his family money.
It is good to be in the family. Chuck’s father was the CEO at the time of his departure, his brother was the CEO thereafter, and his sister is the CEO today. (Franklin Resources declined to answer my questions for this column.)
There is every reason to believe that Chuck’s remorse is genuine. There is every reason to believe that Amy Cooper’s remorse is genuine, too. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is power. If you are Chuck Johnson, you’re in the family. If you are, say, Willie Nelson, you can sing rousing odes to lynching and remain a beloved cultural icon, and even be invited to perform at the Democratic National Convention, as Nelson did in 2008. Amy Cooper is a nobody, like James Damore and Shannon Phillips.
The numbers vary, but most analysts believe that the majority (and probably the great majority) of domestic violence goes unreported. Similarly, it has been estimated that between 70 percent and 90 percent of sexual assaults go unreported. Why? The Brennan Center for Justice reports that 20 percent of victims say they forgo reporting the assault because they “worry about retaliation — not just from the perpetrator, but from society at large.” The bosses at Franklin Templeton have given them another reason to fear such retaliation: Involve the police in a way that upsets the sensibilities of somebody on Twitter and even the titans of the financial world can be stampeded into firing a woman from her job for a minor episode in her private life that has nothing to do with her work or her employer.
Amy Cooper was in the wrong. And that has nothing to do with Franklin Templeton, which has not been deputized to act as the moral guardians of its employees. Cooper’s offense was somewhere between venial sin and breach of etiquette. She did not commit a crime. She did not fail in her professional obligations. She did not violently assault a woman and break her face. Nor did she go to court and dismiss allegations of wrongdoing as “a gross example of a highly exaggerated filing,” as Chuck Johnson’s lawyers did.
Johnson says he accepts the full gravity of his wrongdoing, and maybe he does, but he also successfully petitioned to have his offense retroactively reduced to a misdemeanor and then expunged entirely.
There is no expungement from Twitter.
It is peculiar that our progressive friends have decided that gigantic financial corporations controlled by hereditary billionaires are the appropriate instrument for the enforcement of social, moral and political conformity. (It is also peculiar that they believe that such enforced conformity is necessary and desirable.) But if it isn’t Franklin Templeton, it’s Google, and if it isn’t Google, it’s Starbucks, and if it isn’t Starbucks, it’s IAC, which famously fired a young woman named Justine Sacco in the textbook example of the Twitter mob. Like the Amy Cooper affair, the Justine Sacco hysteria was a frenzied ritual attack on a woman in a high-status job conducted in highly sexualized terms, with the usual lexicon of misogynistic abuse. (A keyword search in Twitter is illuminating, if you doubt this.) Amy Cooper knew what she was doing when she called the police — and Christian Cooper can’t be surprised by what happened after his sister posted the video to Twitter.
Social media is a sewer, and it isn’t going to get any better, because people are not going to get any better. But this kind of ritualistic headhunting could be stopped pretty quickly if companies such as Franklin Templeton would simply declare: “Our employees’ private lives are private, and it isn’t our place to act as their moral tutors.”
It is good that there is grace for wayward executives (and for all us sinners). Perhaps the Johnsons could spare a little of that for Amy Cooper.
But that would be an exercise in principle where what matters most is blood.
Kevin D. Williamson is the author of the upcoming “Big White Ghetto: Dead Broke, Stone-Cold Stupid, and High on Rage in the Dank Woolly Wilds of the “Real America” (Regnery Publishing).
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