Former CEO of the Failed Microworkz Has Failed to Learn the Lesson of Truthfulness - Page 2

Later in the interview, I asked Latman about the duration of his house arrest, which preceded the five years of probation stemming from his bankruptcy fraud conviction. The deceptive behavior exhibited in the first part of his response is what we call an "inappropriate level of politeness." In this case, it incorporated an overly polite apology:

The house arrest was very small-pardon me for not remembering if it was 60 or 90 days.

Obviously, it's difficult to fathom that a person wouldn't be able to remember after just six years whether it was two months or three months that he was forced to wear an ankle device so that law enforcement authorities could track his whereabouts and ensure that he was home by 6:00 p.m. - it seems the duration of such a loss of freedom would be permanently etched in one's mind. Oddly, Latman did not specify the duration of his house arrest in his book. In any case, here's how we explain this deceptive behavior in our book:

We're certainly not at all suspicious of someone who's just a nice person. But if, in response to a question, a person suddenly increases the level of nicety, that's significant. Perhaps the person says, "Yes ma'am" in that particular response, but at no other time in the interview. Or a compliment might be injected during the response: "That's a great tie, by the way." The idea here is that the more we like someone, the more we're inclined to believe him and to shy away from confrontation. The person is using politeness as a means of promoting his likability.

(As an aside, another example of inappropriate level of politeness came later in the interview, when Latman made the comment, "I think there's a lot more here that would be very easy for an educated man like yourself to come to [more positive] conclusions [about].")


The second part of Latman's response exhibited what we call an "inappropriate level of concern." Latman downplayed his house arrest in comparison to whatever the ostensible norm is for a house arrest:

With house arrest, you still go to work, you still go pick your kids up, you still do all the normal process. It's just, essentially, an electronic curfew, if you will. And at least the way it was implemented with me, it certainly was not what you would typically think of as house arrest.

In "Spy the Lie," we explain this deceptive behavior this way:

If the facts are not a person's ally, he's put into a hole from which he needs to try to extricate himself. A person in this position doesn't have much going for him, so he might resort to a strategy of attempting to diminish the importance of the issue. Typically, he'll focus on either the issue or the process, and try to equalize the exchange by doing the questioning: "Why is this such a big deal?" or "Why is everybody worried about that?" The person might even attempt to joke about the issue, which can be especially inappropriate.

The line of questioning I pursued that bothered Latman the most had to do with the $1.5 million judgment from the lawsuit brought by the Washington state attorney general's office that he never paid. I tried several times during the course of the interview to get Latman to talk about his failure to pay the money, attempts that were repeatedly met with a glaring deceptive behavior: refusal to answer. When I initially asked him about the status of the judgment, this was his terse response:

You're going to have to ask the attorney general for that.

I immediately followed up with a second try: "I guess the point of the question is, do you have any intention to eventually pay it?"

That's something I can't comment on, unfortunately. You're going to have to ask the attorney general that one, and we'll certainly go from there.

Of course, the idea of asking the attorney general whether Latman intended to pay up is nonsensical, but nonsensical responses are common when the truth isn't your ally. Later in the interview came what might have been my toughest question of all: "What's your response to someone who says, if you can't be trusted to pay what you owe the people of Washington state, why should I trust you enough to do business with you?" Latman's response:

Yeah, I've never actually heard that. So if a customer were to say that, I'd be happy to address them privately on that. Again, anything related to the attorney general or that judgment would be branching out from the book, which is not what I'm trying to do here. Again, the book is pretty clear about what we're trying to set forward, and where we're trying to head. I'm not going to rehash things from 12, 13 years ago, it doesn't make much sense. It seems like your focus is a little bit towards Microworkz as a whole and not towards the lessons of the book, so I'm a little bit concerned as far as that's concerned. I want to make sure that the press and publicity we have around this book is revolving around what it takes to overcome obstacles, what it takes to learn a lesson from a failure.

Hold that thought. I also asked Latman if any of the proceeds from the book would go towards paying the $1.5 million judgment. His response:

I'll give you the same stock answer you've gotten every time you've brought it up, is that the book's purpose is not to rehash the past. The book's purpose is to move forward and help young entrepreneurs not make those same mistakes going forward.

The behaviors Latman exhibited in response to these questions are fascinating, because they mirror almost exactly a case we cited in "Spy the Lie." In that case, the author was the Tea Party's Christine O'Donnell, and the interviewer was CNN's Piers Morgan. Here's an excerpt from the section of the book in which we discuss "inconsistent statements" as a deceptive behavior:

Tea Party member and former U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell appeared on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight on August 17, 2011, to promote her book, Troublemaker: Let's Do What It Takes To Make America Great Again. O'Donnell ultimately walked out before the interview was over because there were only certain parts of her book that she wanted to talk about, and Morgan refused to restrict his questioning to those parts. Here's a short excerpt from the exchange:


Morgan: So would you agree with Michele Bachmann that we should maybe [reinstate] Don't Ask Don't Tell, we should restore that?


O'Donnell: (laughs) I'm not talking about policies. I'm not running for office. Ask Michele Bachmann what she thinks. Ask the candidates who are running for office what they think.


Morgan: Why are you being so weird about this?


O'Donnell: I'm not being weird about this, Piers. I'm not running for office, I'm not promoting a legislative agenda. I'm promoting the policies that I lay out in the book that are mostly fiscal, that are mostly constitutional.


Within the span of two responses, then, O'Donnell said she was "not talking about policies" because she was "not running for office," and then said, "I'm promoting the policies that I lay out in the book that are mostly fiscal, that are mostly constitutional." She clearly couldn't have it both ways, and became entangled in a web from which she couldn't extricate herself without simply walking out.

Once again, hold that thought. We also cited this interview in the section on "attack behavior" as a deceptive indicator. Here's an excerpt:

Well into the interview, Morgan cited a 1996 MTV documentary in which O'Donnell spoke out against masturbation, and he asked her if her views on the matter had changed since then. O'Donnell, who was in a remote studio for the interview, responded that she had addressed the documentary in her book and had explained why she had raised the issue publicly at that point in her life. Morgan referred to other statements O'Donnell had made about abstinence and lust, and used the matter as a segue into a discussion of gay marriage and Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Let's pick up the exchange at that point, and highlight the attack behaviors:


Morgan: It's a natural extension to ask you, for example, a very relevant question for any politician


O'Donnell (interrupting): I address it all in the book.


O'Donnell is already squarely in attack mode. The interruption aims to prevent Morgan from getting the question out on the table. This discourteous behavior constitutes an attack on Morgan and the interview strategy and process he is attempting to execute. It strongly suggests that O'Donnell fears Morgan's question will put her in serious harm's way from a political standpoint. As a result, she tries to seize control of the interview and send Morgan a message that she will dictate what is discussed.


Morgan: What is your view of gay marriage, for example?


O'Donnell: I address that stuff in the book. I'm here to talk about


Morgan (interrupting): You're on here to promote the damn book, so you can't keep saying, "It's all in the book." You've got to repeat some of it.


O'Donnell: I'm here to talk about the book.


Morgan: Yes, I'm talking about the book. You keep saying, "It's all in the book," so tell me what's in the book.


O'Donnell: Why don't you ask me questions about what I say in the chapter called "Our Follower in Chief" where I criticize Barack Obama? Why don't we talk about


Morgan: Because right now I'm curious about whether you support gay marriage.


O'Donnell: You're borderline being a little bit rude, you know? I obviously


Morgan: Really?


O'Donnell: I obviously want to talk about the issues that I choose to talk about in the book.


At this point in the exchange, O'Donnell has launched a direct attack on Morgan by branding him as "rude." At the same time, her statement that "I'm here to talk about the book" is glaringly inconsistent with her previous responses, in which she refuses to talk about issues that she acknowledges are in the book. In the face of Morgan's persistence on the gay marriage issue, O'Donnell is forced to backtrack and insist on discussing only the issues of her choosing.

Now, in Latman's case, the inconsistency lay in the fact that the entire foundation of his book, what enabled him to write about the lessons he learned, was what happened in his life in the late 1990s. The "good fail" itself, around which he wrote the book, occurred at that time. And yet since the truth wasn't his ally, in response to my questions he felt compelled to make statements that were completely inconsistent with those facts: "Again, the book is pretty clear about what we're trying to set forward, and where we're trying to head. I'm not going to rehash things from 12, 13 years ago, it doesn't make much sense" and "I'll give you the same stock answer you've gotten every time you've brought it up, is that the book's purpose is not to rehash the past." It's worth noting that the first 90 pages of Latman's 153-page book were nothing but a rehash of the past, up to the point of his bankruptcy filing.


The attack behavior in Latman's case was very mild, but it still falls into this behavioral-analysis category: "It seems like your focus is a little bit towards Microworkz as a whole and not towards the lessons of the book, so I'm a little bit concerned as far as that's concerned." Latman was essentially questioning my understanding of what's relevant and impugning my judgment in choosing to focus on Microworkz, as a means of getting me to back off from what I was asking.


I'll end the behavioral analysis there. In a subsequent post, I'll share more of what Latman had to say, including what I finally extracted from him - expressed in terms of what he called "hypotheticals" - about his failure to pay the $1.5 million he owes the state of Washington.

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May 14, 2012 2:17 AM Liz Liz  says:

This man is flagrant politician gone wild.  Reminds me of Kwame Kilpatrick who writes a book on how he 'has seen the light' of his ways.  Owes the city of Detroit millions but, doesn't want the miniscule profits from the book to help repay the city!

How do they keep getting away with it, loopholes within the justice system growing into black holes?

May 14, 2012 10:39 AM Richard K Latman Richard K Latman  says:

Although it's sad to see someone take this kind of obviously biased approach to an "interview" it was no surprise to me. His "critique" of my book is nothing more that a self serving attempt to sell himself as an honest expert, as an "author" or as a, gasp, "journalist". I knew when I wrote this book there would be naysayers, there would be people who choose to twist words and remove things from context. All I can say to you folks out there is read the book and see, without this persons near-obsessive hatred, if you feel the same way. In the book I take clear responsibility for my mistakes but I will not bow down to the slander or the uninformed.

He compares me to O.J. Simpson, who murdered two innocent people in cold blood, need I say more?

May 14, 2012 11:23 AM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to Richard K Latman

Keith, you've very welcome to post comments here, but you need to be truthful. What you're referring to is this excerpt from my Amazon review of your book:


(M)y line of questioning that bothered him the most had to do with the $1.5 million judgment from the lawsuit brought by the Washington state attorney general's office that he never paid. I tried several times during the course of the interview to get Latman to talk about his failure to pay the money, but he repeatedly refused to answer, referring me back to the attorney general's office. Finally, I was able to break through.

'From an outsider's perspective, we're talking about two different issues,' I said. 'We're talking about the lessons learned from a fail, and that's one side of it. But then there's this whole other side that frankly, you're not willing to talk about: what a lot of people would consider doing the right thing, and making good on that $1.5 million.'

Phrasing it in terms of 'doing the right thing' was difficult for Latman to deflect. In an odd approach that was reminiscent of O.J. Simpson's chilling 2006 'If I Did It'  manuscript, Latman chose to respond in terms of a hypothetical scenario:

'I'll use hypotheticals for you, as opposed to exacts, because I promised that I wouldn't say anything exactly. But in hypotheticals, I think it's important to also learn that politics and goals of government, as well as of government civil servants, often correspond with the interests of the constituents in the community. And I think it would be nave for anybody to not assume that those two go hand-in-hand. And a lot of things that are done in government, I don't necessarily agree with. I'm not necessarily talking about this specific issue, but there are many cases of heavy-handed government officials going beyond their mandate, to do things that, in my opinion, are unjust. So when things happen that are unjust to an individual, it's hard to say that's a responsibility you have to continue to process something that's unjust.'

So if, hypothetically speaking, there was a $1.5 million judgment against him that he's not paying, he's not paying it because the goals of the civil servants corresponded with the interests of the constituents in the community, and he doesn't agree with what they did. Think about that. I have, and my conclusion is that refusing to abide by a decision of the state's judicial system because he doesn't agree with it, and then taking it upon himself to try to inspire people with the lessons he's learned from his failure, is one of the most arrogant, deceitful postures I've encountered in 20 years of interviewing corporate executives.


To make the claim that I compared you to O.J. Simpson, with no elaboration, isn't being truthful. It implies that I compared your criminal actions to the criminal actions of Simpson, and as you're very much aware, that's not true. I did no such thing.

As the full excerpt demonstrates, I wrote that your 'hypotheticals' approach to finally responding to my question was reminiscent of the approach O.J. Simpson took in writing 'If I Did It.' That is a fact. It is precisely the same approach, and I pointed that out to demonstrate a behavior that some deceptive people exhibit when confronted with a situation in which the facts are not their ally.

I trust that you will exercise more care in posting any future comment on my blog.

May 14, 2012 11:31 AM Don Tennant Don Tennant  says: in response to Richard K Latman

One more thing. You accused me of twisting words and removing things from context. I don't like being falsely accused. I did no such thing. I would be more than happy to post a link to the full audio of the interview so you can back up your claim. Say the word and I'll post it right here. That way my readers can judge, too.

May 14, 2012 12:34 PM George Alexander George Alexander  says:

Reminds me of R.Kelly when someone asked him about alleged flings with underage girls.

His response:

"Define underage".

Worst. Response. Ever.

May 15, 2012 12:53 PM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says:

This has been quite a read. 

I need more information to draw any conclusions here.  The real question is if the deceptions are rehearsed and the intent is to mislead, or if it is simply misunderstanding the question or going on tangents in an answer.  The audio would certainly help.

As to your specific question regarding a judgement, I think that is a fair question. 

Most people convicted of felonies go on probation after serving time, and fines must be paid - or they are violated and sent to jail.  So was the bankruptcy something that legally expunged that debt?

A person has a choice.  They can choose to pay back the fine, forfeiting their gains from whatever crime they were convicted of, or they can opt not to.  Perhaps his choice not to pay was legal because of a bankruptcy, but it doesn't seem ethical.  If you are to later write a book on ethics, would you not expect people to demand an explanation for a past ethical lapse?

Personally, if I were Latman I would be thanking you.  I suspect that his book just got more publicity than he could have expected otherwise.  Intended or not, your blog entry will probably sell more of his books.  Hopefully he sends some of that money to the people who never got their PC in the 90s. 

Bankruptcy is basically a plea with the courts that "I cannot pay my debts, please have them legally expunged".  Legally your debts never need to be paid.  However suppose your luck in life turns around and now you can afford to pay past debt.  Do you think it is fair to the people you harmed financially that you not make things right?

That's the problem with many people.  They confuse legality with ethics.  I was watching a program yesterday on late term abortions.  Not a topic I wish to debate here, but the argument was that "this is legal, so it must be ethical". 

There are many terrible things I could do that are perfectly legal.  You may be free and clear with the courts and the law, but what about your conscience and if you believe in a higher power - what about that?  If not a higher power, can you explain your choices to your children, wife, or friends?

I'm not a particularly religious person (and I don't knock people who are) but I do have a strong sense of right and wrong.  It seems wrong that people don't correct their past misdeeds when they have a second chance to do so.

Perhaps I'm being hypocritical here because there are surely past deeds I should fix (if I owe someone reading this money or an apology, now is a good time to ask).  There are also people who wronged me over the years and an attempt to fix that would also be welcome.  I don't expect them to, but if they ever write a book on ethics I'll be sure to ask.

So my question for Mr. Latman is simple.  "You may be able to explain to the courts your actions and be in the clear.  Can you explain them to your maker, to your family, and look in the mirror and explain them to yourself?"  If not, at least man up and say "yep, I did something unethical".  You're human, so I can accept that as an answer.

May 16, 2012 8:25 AM Richard Richard  says:

Don, your observations and comments are spot on.  As a former employee of Mr. Latman, I can tell you with certainty that he is nothing but a scam artist and a con man.

His unethical and deceptive business practices continue today.  You have exposed him for what he truly is.  A pathological liar and an ego maniac.  One of these days, and  hopefully soon, all this will catch up to him and he will get what he deserves.

Oct 22, 2012 3:21 PM IT Guy IT Guy  says:
Don, I have to say that your characterization of Mr Latman is very accurate. I've had the dubious pleasure of working for him, and while I don't believe he was actively dishonest towards me, he was definitely living an incredibly opulent lifestyle for someone that's supposed to owe $1.5M. I can second the fact that he seems to be driving a new car everytime I saw him, he always had the latest Apple gadgets the day they came out, and he lived in a house that was like something out of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. While I'm just a codemonkey, I had a hard time seeing, from what I was seeing in the company, how they were even turning a profit. Honestly, it was one of the most unprofessional IT environment that I've ever seen. While I was there they had shared root passwords, no long-term backup or recovery plans, no encryption on financial information, or audited access to production servers. Software updates were performed and tested on the same machine and database while real customer transactions were being performed. No processes, employee manuals, or standard operating procedures were written down ever. I didn't even have to sign anything other than a tax form the first day Reply

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