Few USC graduates picture themselves ending up in prison, but that is exactly what happened to alumnus Justin Paperny, who became involved in unethical business practices and is returning to campus Monday to caution students against making the same mistakes he did.Paperny, a former Trojan baseball player who graduated from USC in 1997 with a degree in psychology, was sent to federal prison in 2008 and served an 18-month term for crimes stemming from unethical business actions committed while working as a junior partner at UBS Wealth Management, a financial management firm in Century City.This problem is not unique to Paperny.Kenneth Merchant, Deloitte & Touche LLP chair in accountancy and professor of accounting, said at least one Leventhal School of Accounting graduate each year experiences problems associated with illegal business decisions.“The worst is felonies, and then they’re getting sanctioned,” Merchant said. “It happens to at least one [former student] a year.”Paperny, however, has decided to use his experience to help warn others.Inspired to turn his life around by a fellow inmate, Paperny started a blog from prison in October 2008. Paperny would write blog entries and mail them to his mother, who would retype them and post them on the Internet. The blog became “Lessons from Prison,” which was published as a book in 2009 and is now required reading for business classes at several universities, including USC.Paperny, who now tours the country to speak to business students, said he had never intended to become involved in illegal activity.“My bad behavior, or unethical behavior, really started slowly. Nobody wakes up and says, ‘Today is the day I’m going to commit a white-collar crime and commit fraud,’” Paperny said. “I had this singular focus toward work and making money. I wasn’t able to discern the sort of person I was turning into.”Paperny said he made his first unethical decision six or seven months into his career, when a senior broker advised him to pad his sales numbers so he could qualify for a $10,000 bonus.“I can’t blame my senior brokers — I don’t blame anybody — but my senior brokers were teaching me the practical aspects,” he said. “I didn’t have enough patience or enough discipline at the time to decide there was a better way to do things. I knew it was wrong, but I figured the culture allowed it, so it must be OK.”Arvind Bhambri, associate professor of management and organization at the Marshall School of Business, said, like Paperny, most people who become involved in illegal business dealings have no intention of doing so initially.“People don’t set out to break the law,” Bhambri said. “It starts incrementally. It’s like riding a tiger, and you don’t know how to get off without getting eaten.”Bhambri said it is vital that students who enter the business world have full awareness of what they are doing at all times.“What I’ve found in my conversations [with former students] is that a lot of people will be engaged in unethical behavior, rationalizing it in their own mind, ‘This doesn’t benefit me, it’s for the company, if everyone else is doing it, it must be okay,’” he said. “And that’s a dangerous path. Just because something has been done a particular way before doesn’t make it right.”Bhambri said USC business students discuss ethics in almost every course, and the university also offers a course strictly on ethical behavior.“The debate that has gone on for a long time is whether we should have a separate course for ethics or if we should integrate it in [to all the courses]. We try to do it at both levels,” Bhambri said. “In the MBA program in particular, we try to get some exposure to ethics in the first couple of weeks.”Nathan Lowenthal, a freshman majoring in business administration, is currently taking a philosophy course called the Professions and the Public Interest in American Life (PHIL141), taught by Professor Dallas Willard. Lowenthal said the class is a popular choice among business students.“We talk about situations professionals are put in that require them to make tough ethical decisions,” he said.Paperny said it is possible for students entering the business world to succeed while holding on to their morals, despite an environment that “tacitly approves” of unethical or even illegal practices that would benefit a company’s bottom line.“I’m convinced you can,” he said. “You have got to be prepared to be different and know that it’s okay to say no to people.”Paperny said the ability to make the right decision in tough situations requires daily effort.“When I was a baseball player, I played every day and I got good. It’s no different being ethical. If you cultivate those habits daily and do it and not just talk about it — evaluate whether your words and actions correlate with the kind of person you want to become,” Paperny said. “When you practice doing the right thing, it will be so easy to make the right decision. But if you don’t cultivate those habits, it’s so easy to cross the line.”
The USC Trojans (9-12, 1-8 Pac-12) look to end their six-game losing streak as they head on the road to face the California Golden Bears (13-9, 3-6). The Trojans beat Cal earlier in the season, 72-57 at the Galen Center, but USC has lost 8 of their last 9 games.USC is coming off a blowout loss to the Utah Runnin’ Utes (17-4, 7-2) last Sunday at home, 67-39. The Trojans were led in that game by freshman forward Malik Martin who scored 11 points for USC.In the worst loss of the season, the Trojans continued their poor shooting with only 26.5 percent; the loss was the largest margin of defeat that the Trojans have seen so far this season. The Trojans only scored 12 points in the first half and could never get back into the game.USC head coach Andy Enfield gave credit to Utah for their stellar performance in the first half.“Give Utah credit for playing well early,” Enfield said. “This was one of those halves of basketball where you shake your head and say, ‘Wow, we didn’t see this coming.’”In Cal’s most recent contest, they beat the Washington State Cougars (10-11, 4-5) 90-88. The Bears had two record performances in the game in Washington when they witnessed junior guard Tyrone Wallace enter the 1,000-point club and senior forward David Kravish break the school’s all-time block record. Cal will look at these two difference-makers to avoid a season sweep at the hands of USC.Cal will also lean on sophomore guard Jordan Mathews who is leading the team in scoring with an average of 18.2 points per game, in Cal’s nine league games.In the most recent game between these two California teams, the Trojans were led to victory by sophomore forward Nikola Jovanovic who scored 21 points and pulled down nine rebounds in USC’s only conference win of the season. Redshirt sophomore guard Katin Reinhardt added 16 points for the Trojans in one of his signature shooting performances while sophomore guard Julian Jacobs added 17 points in the win. Wallace led the way for the Bears in the loss with 21 points of his own.Jovanovic leads the Trojans in scoring with 13.2 points per game, and Reinhardt is not too far behind with an average of 11.9 points per game.Reinhardt has found his stroke as of late and is shooting 44.2 percent from behind the arc in his last six games.USC will look for freshman point guard Jordan McLaughlin to break out of his recent slump and help contribute to a win up north.In USC’s most recent loss to Utah, McLaughlin was scoreless on 0-7 shooting and he also had zero assists. Despite his struggles, McLaughlin is still third on the team in scoring with 11.6 points per game.McLaughlin is having an impressive freshman season, outside of shooting, and he leads his team in assists and steals with 88 and 28 respectively.The other freshmen for the Trojans have also struggled as of late, especially in scoring. Guard Elijah Stewart was scoreless against Utah and forward Malik Marquetti only scored 2 points in 21 minutes. Even though the bench has not been very productive scoring the ball, Enfield praised their effort after the loss to Utah.“I’m proud of our bench coming in and increasing our energy,” Enfield said. “We need the whole team to play like that.”When the Trojans tip off on Thursday night, they will be playing in a stadium that has not been kind to them recently. USC is 2-6 in its last 8 visits to Haas Pavilion where the Bears are 8-6 this season.USC has not fared well on the road all season; they post a 2-6 road record on the year. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. and will be aired on Fox Sports 1.