LRN Perspectives

Courage of Conviction: Rashmi Airan’s Journey From Convicted Felon to Ethics Evangelist

July 7, 2019 LRN Corporation


This podcast series comes in celebration of Principled’s 25 year. On today’s podcast, Rashmi Airan is interviewed by Marsha Ershaghi Hames from LRN.

Today, Marsha interviews Rashmi, someone that once was caught up in the grandeur of goals rather than paying attention to very real and very detrimental details. Rashmi grew up as a perfectionist and put a lot of pressure on herself. She had tremendous success and ended up opening her own real estate and law practice. Everything changed when she started working with a big developer client that got her mixed up in some “creative” transactions. Not realizing the severity of this at the time, Rashmi stayed quiet. In May 2011, Rashmi got a visit from the FBI and was interrogated for four hours without her attorney present. Two years passed after the interrogation before she had heard anything else regarding this. Ultimately, she realized she had been targeted and was to be charged with bank fraud. She pled guilty and owned it with her community. She realized that she had been ignoring red flags and was silent when she shouldn’t have been. She was in prison for 6 months. Since her release, she shares her story with others. Looking back on it now, she realizes how she got lost keeping up with appearances. If she had it to do over again, she would pay close attention to details. In the aftermath of this incident, she has learned that this situation is something that happened, but it doesn’t have to define her. She has been able to forgive herself, and has learned unconditional love from those around her.


  • [0:58] Could you share a little bit about your background?
  • [1:11] I come from a family of Indian origin and grew up in Miami, Florida. As a girl trying to grow up and be perfect, I put a lot of pressure on myself. She went to UNC Chapel Hill, spent time on Wall Street and then went on to Colombia Law School. She then opened her own real estate and law practice in Florida. She started working with a big developer client that ended up with her getting a visit from the FBI in 2011.
  • [4:53] A whole two years had passed after the interrogation?
  • [4:57] Yes, we’re talking 4 years since she had stopped working with the client. She received a Grand Jury subpoena. They wanted to go through her files. She found out that she was a target. She ended up being convicted of bank fraud and pled guilty. She learned some hard lessons about ethics, compliance and leadership. She now shares her story with others.
  • [7:24] What have you learned looking back if you had to go back and coach yourself? What would you do differently and where were the red flags?
  • [7:32] I was so focused on achieving goals and making others proud of me and wanted to keep up appearances. When you’re so focused on the outcomes and the goals, you lose focus of the process. Don’t convince yourself you’re invincible. Take time to pause and reflect.
  • [10:07] Were you so focused on the outcome that you couldn’t stop and ask the right questions?
  • [10:15] There’s good and bad with being your own boss. There was no one day to day to ask questions to. However, there were friends and mentors I could have gone to but didn’t want to. Leaders need to make it clear that they are going to hold themselves accountable.
  • [12:53] Are we developing and coaching the next generation of leaders to be culturally aware and culturally sensitive? What did they charge you with?
  • [13:55] I was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and 23 counts of bank fraud. The fraud was lack of disclosure to the banks from “creative” transactions.
  • [14:13] The new generation of professionals crosses the spectrum. There is a growing interest in getting it right.
  • [14:52] How are you charting the path forward and what are some of the objectives you have?
  • [14:58] I owe a lot to my family and role models that taught me how to be a survivor. I am very resilient and have relied on my relationships. I have allowed myself to forgive myself and rise above. It has been important and healing to own the mistake.

    Don’t miss our next episode! Be sure to subscribe to Principled on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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