Great Women In Fraud

Episode 52, Lisa Lawler, White Collar Wives Project

October 12, 2021 Kelly Paxton, CFE Episode 52
Show Notes Transcript

Today we have a special guest, Lisa Lawler.  She is the founder of the White Collar Wives Project.  She didn’t grow up thinking her career would be helping other women navigate life when their husbands got caught committing white collar crime. Let’s get going.

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Kelly Paxton: And then, what about the best money spent personally?


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Lisa Lawler: therapy.


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Kelly Paxton: I kind of thought, maybe so.


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Lisa Lawler: What gets me up in the morning, I think, is that you know there's always another client of mine who needs help was always.


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Lisa Lawler: You know my writing gets me up because there's so much that I got working on so many projects and working on a training for attorneys, as you know that book is going to be really helpful I'm also working on a book  based on my support group the secret lives of white collar wives and those are going to be it's a book about. Their essays it's an essay compilation of all these different stories that are page-turners truly to anyone, you know not just people that are affiliated with this kind of in this realm but for anyone is curious about white collar wives, you know, are they guilty did they know that didn't know this book will kind of put that question to rest and then my memoir I finished, a couple years ago but I've just been reticent, to put it out there, but writing gets me up and going in the morning.


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Lisa Lawler: Well, a little over a dozen years ago I learned that my husband was under investigation for embezzling two and a half million dollars from a prominent teaching hospital in New England that point we've been married for 25 years had a son, who was 11 at the time, and he had been having an affair, with a former friend of mine, and so we had been separated.

You know I thought the affair would blow over I was being very European about it very patient with it, and then, when it became clear that this was kind of a real thing.

I had to move out, you know.



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Lisa Lawler: So he was actually had broken up this girlfriend after several months was trying to make his way back home to make amends, and then he told me that he had just kind of had he was under investigation for embezzling it's funny at first, he told me, it was $150,000 and I said well it's just take an equity loan that was just pay it off let's just fix it.


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Lisa Lawler: make this legal you know here, I am just trying to fix it, you know let's get it done privately let's just do it, which is Pam no that's not going to work and I couldn't figure out why because, but a week later, he said that it's really not $150,000 is $500,000 and I can really help.


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Lisa Lawler: At the end of the day, it turned out to be $2.5 million, I remember one of my sisters saying when I told her that she said, remember the good old days, and it was just $150,000.


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Lisa Lawler: So from there, yes, we divorced, it took forever took three years for him to finally be indicted.


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Lisa Lawler: You know, you know paper trails don't lie, and he had sent all along to the Attorney General's office look, I want to come in, I want to plead they kept refusing him.


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Lisa Lawler: So three years later yeah three years later I had moved after my divorce down to Austin Texas from Massachusetts to be with my dad being here my dad being your family.


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Lisa Lawler: Although I had a lot of family when I just needed to get out of the fishbowl so you know I'm lucky that I divorced early on, before indictment because. I didn't know what I didn't know in those days, but it turned out to be the right thing to do, because once the state of the feds come in, they can freeze your house. your assets your bank accounts your home it's awful so I had the opportunity to get past that and have the proceeds from the sale of my house anyway, so my ex followed us down there with the permission from the Court his attorney and the AG.


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Lisa Lawler: And a year later, they came down and arrested him in his house that he was renting in Austin, Texas arrested him to state troopers came in.


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Lisa Lawler: And so I started blogging and other women started reaching back to me and bit by bit, I built the support group over the years and we are in the triple digits and the majority of the women, these are white collar wives.

 Of the majority of the women are here in the United States but we've got women from Paris France, you know, South America, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada.


But the majority of the women are here and the support is amazing is a really smart women, lest there be any doubt that were duped you know egregiously so so yeah that's that's the kind of the genesis of how I got to be in this business.


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Kelly Paxton: Is there I'm gonna say a demographic age wise um.



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Lisa Lawler: That's a really good question Kelly, because what I'm seeing mostly and I can only go by what I'm seeing and the women that contact me reach out to me, I would say, if there was a median age, it would probably be early to mid 40s.Having said that, I have had clients as young as you know, early 30s.


And I have clients many clients who are in their 50s and even 60s so and that's really tragic, because if you've been a stay at home mom or a housewife with your kids grown empty nester and you haven't worked in 20 or 30 years or never worked out of college at some of those women who suddenly now has to scramble and make a living in this economy.


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Lisa Lawler: I have a problem with people being Ruth Madoff there's a lot of emotional almost Stockholm syndrome stuff that goes on, with women in these long long term marriages that the humiliation factor also is extreme.

So in her case you know her own children wouldn't speak to her unless she divorced Bernie and stop talking to him and stop seeing him. 


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Lisa Lawler: To do the right thing and the other one it's about power and money but mostly about power, but the thing they do have in common is the power.


The power they want that power, you know they want to win at any cost, and like anyone else you know are some that are easily led that skews your judgment.


You know you always have to go back and ask yourself and get grounded Why am I doing this, what are my motivations be you know behind what I'm doing or thinking of doing, but these two guys it's the power, I always you know, look at what's going on in a government it's money and power it's always going to be the power that people want and control, so I don't know I go back and forth I love that Bobby is so fixated on his mission in life, you know that's commitment.


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Lisa Lawler: My team doesn't think that it's compelling enough for audiences to tune in every week and I thought he said yeah we've thought about doing this before.

But they are they don't the team doesn't think it's compelling enough material for audiences to tune in every week and they very politely said, yet they're turning tuning in for 13 years to essentially the same story every week.


So I just find that confounding completely confounding problem here is, I think that networks don't understand producers don't understand that these aren't little ladies, these are very bright professional women in many cases, who were duped breed justly.


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Lisa Lawler: So you know I always when I have a young person come in her 30s or early 40s I always think there's time you can get training, you can relaunch you can you have done for the women in their late 50s and 60s, who come to me it's so heartbreaking because ageism is alive and well in this country and probably around the planet these women have to start from ground zero.


They can't go live with their parents. Their parents are either long dead or in nursing homes or whatever, so they have to go live with the children in many cases.


And it's just heartbreaking so yeah so they've got the monetary damage they also have the you know the stigma the shame humiliation all of that, the heartbreak because.


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Lisa Lawler: I I can't tell you how many times I have wanted to walk away from this work, but then another woman gets in touch with me and I can't say no, you know there's no i'll never get rich in this work, a lot of people say you should start a nonprofit.

And what I can say to that is but I don't want to run a non profit, I want to do the work I'm doing because running a non profit is a lot of work, you know there's a lot of fundraising that goes on.


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Lisa Lawler: So who knows you know I've done most of this out of pocket, and at this point I can't afford to keep doing this out of pocket I'm going to have to have a benefactor so if anyone's listening.


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Lisa Lawler: I need a benefactor to keep helping as women and children, but hopefully this book will bring in some income and train some attorneys so that we can begin to turn this ship around and get the courts to understand.


Wasn’t Lisa fascinating.  I can’t wait for her book and essays about other women and their lives as white collar wives.  I had heard about Erika Jayne but when I read Lisa’s blog I was pretty shocked.  Not everything is at it seems.  Please let me know what you thought about this episode. There are links in the show notes.