Be Professional, Act Professionally

New Programs At MCCC

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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on August 9, 2000. All rights

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Bank Fraud: Tomas Norton

The biggest dollar amount of fraud in the United States

today is fraud against banks, says Tomas Norton of the Norton

Group (609-409-4490; fax, 609-409-4491, www.nortongroup.com). Norton’s

forensic accounting firm offers litigation support for banks and other

financial institutions, and with a sister company, the Norod Media

Group (www.norod.com), it moved to Rossmoor Drive last year.

Norton contributed testimony to a recent mortgage flipping scheme

that was tried in federal district court in the southern district

of New York. In the civil portion of this case, Walsh Securities was

found liable for an amount yet to be determined and will have to

reimburse

Citiscape Corporation, which purchased the mortgages.

In this 1997 scheme, condos or single family homes in Asbury Park

were bought at depressed prices, given cosmetic repairs, and sold

for inflated prices thanks to a questionable appraisal. A home might

be bought, for instance, for $30,000 plus $10,000 worth of repairs.

The home would then be appraised at $90,000, so a $70,000 mortgage

could be obtained.

Norton’s testimony was a comparison of purchase prices with appraisals

ranging from 122 to 714 percent, with the average rise being 370

percent.

These high spreads took place over days or weeks. "We noted that

spreads of this magnitude over a short period of time indicates the

appraisals were false on their face," says Norton. Walsh

Securities

was found liable in at least 32 cases.

Result: the mutual funds lost money and so did the homeowners.

"The

low-income people had a $40,000 house but were liable for one worth

$70,000," says Norton. "We represented Citiscape, which sold

the securities into the marketplace to mutual funds. Citiscape sued

Walsh, and a number of appraisers have pleaded guilty to fraud. This

is the first admission of any sort of guilt on the civil side. The

people who are really being cheated are the government or people who

can’t afford it." The FBI is investigating the criminal portion

of the case.

Norton went to Seton Hall, Class of 1960, and has had 40 years of

banking experience, with jobs as CEO of several banks and deputy

commissioner

of the state banking department. He founded his firm, now located

on Rossmoor Drive, in 1978, and he has four other employees plus

freelance

consultants.

Another landmark case, now pending before the state supreme court,

could change the way banking services are delivered and paid for.

This fraud involves a fake certified check for $350,000 cashed by

the client. The case is known as City Check Cashing versus

Manufacturers

Hanover (now Chase).

Norton’s client, City Check Cashing, faxed a copy of the check to

the bank that issued the check, and the bank never called back. Three

hours later, believing the check to be good, the client cashed it

and gave the money to the client. But several days later the bank

got around to notifying City Check that the certified check was no

good.

"If you provide a service as an accommodation for free, and you

do it badly and harm results, are you responsible?" asks Norton.

"This case will set the standards for what banks can do and cannot

do."

Consumers should guard against fraud, says Norton, particularly

against

identity fraud, which causes $10 billion of damage every year, and

that amount is only what gets reported. Up for litigation soon, he

predicts, will be a flurry of cases regarding banks with automated

check processors that do not check signatures on personal checks.

Insist on seeing your checks, he says, and inspect them when you get

your statement. "Banks don’t check signatures anymore, and after

60 days you are likely to be liable."

— Barbara Fox

Top Of Page
Be Professional, Act Professionally

If you want to be "professional," says Joan

Rose Spiegel, keep learning. "The train is leaving, and you

want to be on it," she says. "Ask questions. Don’t take no

easily. Work hard to be creative. Develop a new skill each

semester."

The term "professional" formerly applied only to a small

sector

of the market, perhaps only doctors, lawyers, and clerics. Now almost

anyone can label herself a professional, says Rose, if she approaches

her work in a professional way and bolsters her skills on a regular

basis.

Just because you have skill and experience and a fancy title, she

says, does not mean you qualify. "We are professionals — not

because of our title, appearance, education, or income — but

because

of how we do our work and how we think about ourselves."

With the slogan "positive changes for life," Joan Rose Spiegel

offers transition consulting through the Rose Group (609-397-6097,

E-mail: rosespiegel@rcn.com). Rose has a BA in sociology from the

University of Miami, Class of

1965, and an MA in counseling psychology from Loyola in Maryland.

She started out as a social worker for the State of Florida, moved

to marketing, did career counseling at what’s now the College of New

Jersey, and then did career management for an international

outplacement

firm before starting her own business in Princeton. She is married

to Herb Spiegel, formerly head of the Small Business Development

Center at Mercer County Community College (see story on page 15),

and they live in Lambertville.

To act in a professional manner, be accountable for your behavior,

says Rose. "Pay attention to non-verbal communication signs, such

as being on time to meetings, not keeping someone waiting, or

returning

calls in a prompt time. Being a professional means showing respect

for others and yourself, and doing what is intrinsically fair and

right."

1. Have a positive state of mind. "In the movie `Erin

Brokovitch,’ Erin believed in her abilities and intelligence and sense

of self. She had confidence and passion and commitment which others

saw. Feeling confident comes from within."

2. Drive your own bus, have a goal. "Be selective

of the people and books you learn from. Choose a mentor or coach.

Know your values. Take a risk and follow-up on something you have

avoided. Make something happen to influence people and events —

you are in a position to do that." Rose believes that when someone

achieves a goal, that person acquires focus, direction, persistence,

and power.

3. Know the expectations of your business or

organization

so you can help to achieve them. "Everyone wants to be appreciated

— offer your talents and skills. Provide solutions when you

present

a problem. Contribute an idea. Volunteer for a team project."

4. Deal effectively with change. "Demonstrate

flexibility

by managing multiple tasks, prioritizing projects, and handling

crises."

5. Value the skills you do routinely. "Self praise

is part of being a professional," says Rose.

Top Of Page
New Programs At MCCC

New traditional credit programs at Mercer College this

year include certificates in aviation flight technology, E-commerce,

and engineering science. Mercer’s fall semester starts Monday, August

28, and registration is supposed to be finished by Tuesday, August

22. Registration is also available at Quakerbridge Mall on Thursday

and Friday, August 17 and 18, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. or online at

www.mccc.edu,

or call 609-586-4800, extension 3228. Tuition is $68.50 per credit

hour.

An E-commerce Certificate will give computer savvy

entrepreneurs

the qualifications needed to create a powerful and expandable

E-business.

The E-commerce curriculum is designed so that students leave with

the know-how to plan, design, develop, implement, and maintain

individual

web sites for electronic commerce. Classes for this certificate

include

English composition, website design, E-marketing, building E-commerce

websites, advanced E-commerce websites, and a technical/business

elective. With classroom knowledge and experience as a guide, graduate

students can build their own E-businesses, become web developers or

editors, or be successful by designing or maintaining web pages for

electronic commerce.

The Engineering Science Transferring Certificate can help

transfer students accelerate into the sophomore year at a four-year

college in a specific engineering program major. Certification

requires

that 33-34 credits be earned through the program’s courses. Classes

include calculus, general chemistry, English composition, engineering

graphics, university physics, and an elective.

The Health Science Associate in Applied Science Degree

is for licensed or certified health care professionals who have not

yet earned a college degree. Professionals who may find this program

helpful and rewarding include dental assistants, medical technicians,

licensed practical nurses, or pharmacy technicians. Students will

be required to take English composition 1 & 2, introductory

psychology,

general education electives, concepts of health and fitness, living

with health, college algebra, some core science classes, and technical

and professional electives. To graduate. students will have to acquire

62 credits.

A Retail Management Certificate of Proficiency opens the

door for many career opportunities in the retail industry. This

program

helps students become qualified managers who possess knowledge in

retailing, merchandising, advertising, sales, marketing and total

quality management — knowledge that is valuable in the retail

industry today. Courses for this program include business mathematics,

principles of marketing, retail management, retail merchandising,

personal salesmanship, principles of advertising, consumer behavior,

English composition, computer concepts, and total quality management:

a customer orientation. Altogether, the certification of proficiency

requires 30 credits for completion.

The noncredit division offers two new four-session business

communication courses, one on global communication starting Wednesday,

September 20, at 7 p.m., and another on American business language,

starting Wednesday, October 25. On Monday evenings, a certificate

program in nonprofit management begins on September 18 with Management

Skills for Nonprofits taught by Marge Smith, former director

of the YWCA. 609-586-9446 E-mail: ConEd@mccc.edu or call 609-586-9446.


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