Author: Catherine S. Neal
Publisher: Palgrave MacMillan
ISBN: 978-1-137-27891-3

In 1992, Dennis Kozlowski became CEO of Tyco International, a little-known New Hampshire investment and holding company which, under his aggressive acquisition strategy, became a global giant in the business world.   Ten years later,  Kozlowski became embroiled in a massive scandal which played out in the courts where he was accused of dozens of felonies.  The court found him guilty. But, was he?

Kozlowski lived in a world of money - and lots of it.  But, during his arraignment, the judge set bail at one hundred million dollars. With his assets frozen by the Court, he couldn’t access his own money to post the required bond and from behind bars, reality about what the future might hold for him began to set in.

“Taking Down the Lion” author and business ethics professor, Catherine S. Neal, presents a compelling, unfiltered and controversial story, substantiating her conclusion of ‘oczywista’ (Polish for ‘unmistakable/obvious’) innocence with meticulous research using independent objective sources which cast a strong view contrary to the legal decision.

The author contends that Kozlowski’s attorneys didn’t offer a good defense because they called neither forensic accountants nor fraud examiners. She quotes white collar crime expert Christo Lassiter who opined that the defense team should have “established that Kozlowski was acting within the accepted norm.”  But, they didn’t.  And that was just the beginning of the injustice rendered the defendant.  The selection process of the jury dismissed many professionals with the education and experience necessary to understand the complex issues of the case.  Mr. Kozlowski’s Sixth Amendment rights were violated.  And, compounding the problem was the trend towards news analysis and commentary in lieu of factual reporting.

Neal contends that Kozlowski was naive and did not see that the offer he received from the Tyco Board in 1992 to be an early indication of a dysfunctional Board; that the scandal was a case study in the risks of vesting in one person the roles of both CEO and Chair; that the media “loved the irrelevant yet juicy details revealed” during his trials and focused on them rather than the facts; that Kozlowski’s inability to properly communicate and assess risk when dealing with someone he trusted was an important factor in his demise; and that his foray into the world of fine art proved to be one of his biggest mistakes.  The author admits that Kozlowski got caught up in issues of power and outrageous sums of money, but passionately argues that there was nothing of a criminal nature.

In January 2014, Kozlowski was finally granted parole.  A senior citizen, he left prison as a man whose wife had divorced him while in jail; a man who had watched behind bars as child molesters and criminals of violent acts walked out of jail having received shorter sentences than did he; a man whose guilt was not proven by fact but by innuendo, media gossip-mongering and by a defense team who failed to represent their client with skill.

In a compelling reflection on Voltaire’s Candide: “We find it pays to shoot an admiral from time to time to encourage others,” the author contends that authorities focused on making a high-profile example of Kozlowski and that District Attorney Robert Morgenthau “wanted the lion.” 

Author Catherine Neal has researched and written a fascinating study of ambition, media, ethics and entitlement, presenting a unique perspective on the question of the influence of economic status in the criminal justice system, portraying Dennis Kozlowski with compassion, clarity and sensitivity and even noting fifteen "lessons to be learned" at the end of the book.   In a nutshell, this is an excellent read.

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