CLASS BLOG – Movie “Ocean’s 11”
The guide question I put out on that essay quiz, asking my class to do a “review-cum-reaction-paper” after watching the film “Ocean’s 11”, involved putting together an integrative essay dealing with Strategies, Systems know-how, Governance & Ethics, Taking risks & risk management, Internal Control, and troubleshooting… I’ve combined here 3 groups’ essays. THANKS A LOT! Enjoy reading this 🙂
Acknowledgments: Campos, Co, dela Cruz, Patupat, Saringan, Tapang, Villarias, Castro | De Luna | Deray | Encarnacion | Poliquit | Samin.
“The organization should be so structured that the perpetration of a fraud requires collusion between two or more individuals.” -James Hall, Accounting Information Systems
Ocean’s 11 shows how elaborate internal control systems can turn out to be. For luxurious 5-star Casinos, making sure no smart-aleck can cheat in a game is already a huge deal but safeguarding of valuable assets is top priority. It is hard to emphasize how Casinos need to have significant amounts of cash reserves in their in house coffers. And this fact is not unknown to the public, more so to schemers. And just like banks and financial institutions, it is imperative for Casinos to invest in a control system that would stop these burglars.
Danny Ocean’s 11-man team undertakes the almost impossible task of robbing the vaults of the world-renowned Bellagio, a 5 star luxurious Hotel Casino at the heart of Sin City, Las Vegas. Failure would equate to being locked up in prison for the rest of their mortal lives. Success however is equal to $150 million dollars of cold hard cash all to themselves. For this high class theft operation, it takes no less than high-class thieves as well to get the job done. Just the high-risk-high-return game of poker, these men decided to toss their chips “all in”, to risk everything and to go for the reward. From an ethical standpoint, such a decision is completely unacceptable. They are conniving to execute a theft and fraud of gargantuan proportions.
In any case, planning is the first and biggest hurdle to overcome. The movie showed that planning must be very detailed and specific for it to be easier to execute and thus have a better chance of succeeding. The use of technology to simulate the whole process made it easier to explain comprehensively the process involved. Thus, it was easy for nine strangers to grasp and comprehend all they have to do and the repercussions of each action, in case they fail. People’s reliance on the extensive use of computers in today’s security and control was patent. A simple fact was demonstrated: the more complex the security is, the more integrated technology would have to be. A thorough understanding of this system is necessary for the formulation of the plan. As with information systems, one can see that the best strategy is the one that is tailor fit to the last detail for a particular goal.
Huge costs incurred for multiple levels of a security system that utilizes both human and technological expertise are justified by the amount of resources the Casino is keeping and the many risks that the company faces. However, no security measure or internal control is absolutely impenetrable. No wonder, fiascos like those of Enron and Worldcom, or our very own University of the Philippines bank robbery and theft crimes, still occurred. Risk in this case is composed of human and technological flaws. Essential to Ocean’s plot is to have team members that can do specific tasks, even if that would mean inviting a contortionist, a pickpocket, an explosives expert, a gadgets expert, a near-senile-stage-actor, and the like into the team. Ocean, along with some of the members, oversee the whole operation and act as managers. The plan is very risky, but each one in the team agrees to work on the plan because as a group, their expectancy, instrumentality and valence -the factors that determine level of motivation- are all high. It has to be taken note of as well, that the team has back-up subsystems for major operations, just in case one fails to do his job.
The Bellagio’s intricate security system and the riches hidden in its vaults fall prey to Danny Ocean’s eleven-man team. Combining their intellect, and various talents and abilities, these eleven men were nearly unstoppable. Each one of them plays a crucial part in executing their perfectly crafted scheme, contributing their own capabilities to various stages of the plan. They display exemplary team work, although for an unethical objective. The casino’s intricate internal control and highly advanced security system could not stop them from achieving their goal.
No matter how hard an organization strives to protect its assets, the possibility of theft continues to exist. Even a strong internal control is not an absolute deterrent to fraud and crime. There are cunning minds who will stop at nothing to get what they want. Ocean’s Eleven has a happy ending for its criminal protagonists. In real life, though, fraud and theft have led to the sad endings of many companies, such as Enron. Now, more than ever, it has become increasingly important to have a company strategy that highly integrates internal control, and a deep ethical foundation. Without this, a company’s management could be the perpetrator. Effective internal control should be supported by a control environment that promotes ethical decisions. As accountants, we must firmly uphold the ethical standards of our profession, despite the pressures and temptations that we may encounter.
“Epilogue” [from Nucum et al.] – An “Ethical” blog on “Ocean’s 11”
Didn’t we applaud with awe when Ocean finally formed his crew consisting of a card shark, a pickpocket, an explosives expert, an aging gambler and a freewheeling casino mogul to finance the operations? Didn’t we like how they planned and carried out a series of scouting missions at the Bellagio, learning about the security, the lay of the land, even the routines and behavior of the casino staff, while at the same time, crafting a perfect replica of the vault and practising evasion of the supposedly strict security systems of the casino? Didn’t we all marvel at the sight of Danny Ocean and his gang as they casually pulled off what seems to be an impossible task and got away with the millions from Benedict’s safe? More so, didn’t we almost glorify Ocean when he triumphantly stole just under the nose of Benedict all the money and at the same time won back the heart of his ex-wife who happens to be the latter’s girlfriend? Not to mention of course, the heartthrobs playing each of the roles.
But didn’t we also realize that as we sat back relaxed on our seats and clapped each time the gang skillfully breached the security system, what we are glaringly taking pleasure in is actually a crime? Yes, just as when crimes are made delightful into a comedy caper film, we all forget the malice, the bad intent, and the lack of virtue and character. Just because each of the members of the gang is an expert in his own field doesn’t take away the fact that such excellence was used to commit a crime. In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle is speaking not so much of physical excellences as virtues of character and of thought. Here, it is important that we have some understanding of the soul. And as accountants, we do have that soul. We should not forget that at the back of all the laughter and applause, we are being threatened by such crimes especially with regard to the security of accounting information systems. No matter how well-versed we are with all the knowledge, skills, strategies and systems know-how, if we don’t put them to good use and we don’t take responsibility for our actions as virtuous corporate individuals in the future, everything is useless.
*Addendum: (by Aliza): My students may have forgotten another very important ‘strategy’, which is that of PRAYING A LOT, especially to St Michael the Archangel, in order to hurdle the dangers particularly when carrying out an important good & ethical mission. 😉
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