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Where's the Ethics in Business?

Posted April 02, 2009 7:01 AM

Most MBA programs offer required courses on business ethics, and there's even a dedicated magazine focusing on ethics and corporate responsibility. Yet the business world continues to be rocked by scandals ranging from unscrupulous mortgage lenders and Bernard Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme to Wall St. executives accepting fat bonuses at failing companies. Can't businesses be trusted to run ethical operations? Do we need much tougher regulatory watchdogs?

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#1

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/02/2009 12:50 PM

Religion is in the business of ethics and is constantly rocked by scandal.

In both cases you mention, collusion across industry lines for profit was common.

Enron knew what it was up to - but so did the banks making buckets of their own money off of Enron.

I don't think the answer lies in trying to get the visibility and oversight to prevent it, I think the answer lies in the consequences.

The Keating Five fought tooth and nail for years and mostly did little jail time.

Enron execs not only did little jail time, the bankers who aided them were not to my knowledge charged.

And while the world rails at AIG bonuses, the debt rating agencies get little heat, the banks who haven't failed - none. This entire event was watched by the entire country, many of whom simply cheered it along when we all knew better.

When all of your neighbors become mortgage brokers - bad sign.

When billboards go up in your town advertising "No Credit Checks, No Income Verification, No Qualification and No Down Payment Buys a Home" - bad sign.

And you don't need an MBA nor a class in ethics to know what is going on is wrong.

But when yours is the only firm missing out, and when you can stand with enough thieves that your sector demands bailing out when the bottom hits - there are no consequences for doing wrong and no rewards for doing right.

Now if you strip corporate shields for personal actions - then we can talk.

In aviation - if I fake a set of test results and the awful happens; I personally stand in front of the NTSB - as well as the corporation I was working for.

And that has always been more than enough to keep me on the straight and narrow.

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#58
In reply to #1

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/11/2009 10:17 AM

Somewhat tangential to your point: the US passed laws after the RJR Nabisco fiasco were designed to help out those who lost the most in the incident - the shareholders. Unfortunately, the wording of the legislation was somewhat ambiguous. What people took away from it was that US law puts the good of shareholders above all other business concerns. In other words, a business's first priority is to shareholder profits.

Whether this is actually true or not is a topic of debate for the lawyers.

The net effect is one of blind greed. CEOs and others think that if the shareholders are making money then anything goes. Enron, Madoff, Monsanto, et al., are all the result of a mis-interpretation of legislation designed to help people.

Really, it's all about the Benjamins.

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#2

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/02/2009 4:15 PM

The reason is simple. Anything that sells as news and in some cases can be used to promote an agenda, will be headline news.

Headline news is not representative of the norm. So, you are simply a victum of media hype, which is not a scholarly study.

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#3
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/02/2009 4:26 PM

I did not mean to imply that ALL banks were dirty

I did not mean to imply ALL ANYTHING is ever dirty

I simply said that closer direct consequences for perfidy would help us all stay on the straight and narrow.

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#4
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/02/2009 4:45 PM

I did not actually respond to your post, so I understand that you were generalizing. My point is that the magnifying glass always spotlights an issue and therefore distorts the overall context of the issue.

This makes some things appear to be issues that are in reality not that big a deal. I agree, inforcement needs to be done better.

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#5
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/02/2009 4:54 PM

I should have realized, and I completely agree

No industry of any sort will stand up long to the scrutiny yet lack of analysis the media generally throws at things

I cringe when they come near aviation

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#6

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/02/2009 11:08 PM

There are N number of religions on this globe. Each religion advocates ethics. Do you know any religion, which advocates unethical things?

But where are the ethics in the world? Besides, no two religions tolerate other religion!!!

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#7

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 12:10 AM

Since you pose the question it might be helpful to the discussion if you would provide your definition of ethics - not Webster's, Black's, nor, the Bible - but yours. Thank you.

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#8

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 1:31 AM

"There is but One Law"

"If you do not understand the One Law, you will be given Ten Laws."

"If you do not understand the Ten Laws, you wil be given ten times Ten Thousand Laws."

Buddah

The number of cops, and the number of criminals, is about the same. Not surprising since they both have the same psycological profile. They feed off each other.

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#15
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 11:24 AM

Buddah? Is he in the Senate, or, a congressman?

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#9

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 2:02 AM

I would suggest you think of it like a good engineer would...on a systems basis...

If you don't have the feedback loops hooked up right, you will not have a process that is in control. If your hand got hot when your neighbor down the street put their hand on the stove, your hand would soon be cut off.

The same applies to economics. Many of the signals are connected, by design, to the wrong places. Result? out of control and no real cause and effect. Mess up, you get a bailout, save, you get your saving destroyed by inflation...

Take Andrew Carnegie for example. In 1888, he and Frick, his partner, found that a new guy on the block had a process that made rail tracks that did not crack, and did not require a reheat in between processes. Carneigie was on the way to bankruptcy, because his rail track fractured (like the titanic) and 10's of thousands were dying in rail accidents because Carneigie could NOT innovate.

So what did Carneigie do? He called up all the railroads, which he supplied rails to, and he told them that the new guy's rails would fail and were not "homogenious" as such. Suddenly, nobody would buy this new guys rails (that did not crack), and within 1 year the new guy was bankrupt.

Frick and Carneigie went in and got it for pennies on the dollar, adopted the process, called it by a new name, and the rest is history.

Had the government done it's job, Carneigie should have been in jail for fraud, slander, and several other crimes, and, of course, bankrupted... True story...

Government is the major source of low ethics. Nearly all of our current mess is government induced, with a little help from banker friends. What is going on is in no way Constitutional, nor moral, ethical, fair, or reasonalbe.

If you had the right to print money, you would be the smartest and richest in the world...as that power is "greater than a standing army" (Jefferson) and is central to all this nonsense of "globalization" and consolidation.

All of this is very easily fixed...we just have to have the will to elect people who know what a feedback loop is and who can fix this ecomony...

Seaplaneguy

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#18
In reply to #9

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 12:43 PM

So, what is YOUR definition of ethics?

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#40
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/06/2009 9:49 AM

Do onto others....as you would have done to you! Remember the one who hungered...A southern black preacher...an elderly woman who believed in god. Sacrifice is the fondation of good people. Look at Madoff, in the end he has ruined his life and his sons. What a death bed moment he is going to have. Do right by others and in the end you will prosper.

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#10

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 6:49 AM

All that glitters is not gold.

Well, what is needed is a different mind set. All those involved in such "operations" very much know, what they are doing and they are all well educated people. In fact such grey matter "crimes", if I may call them, are far more difficult to surface than those petty ones like a street robbery or shop lifting etc. etc. To make matter worse, it comes up only when enough of damage has already been done. Look at all the cases, mentioned in this discussion, you will see lot of similarities. At some point of time, even money becomes useless for such people, it is the hunger for power and reason to stay in limelight, which propels them further in their "pursuit"

Thanks and regards

Ashok Toshniwal

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#19
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 12:45 PM

Again, definition of YOUR ethics?

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#11

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 7:20 AM

Every business is Monkey business,so there are no Ethics in Monkey business. Loot as much as you can that is ideology. That is what taught to Masters In Business Management boys.

Suresh Sharma.

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#12
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 7:23 AM

Why are you insulting monkeys?

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#20
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 12:46 PM

And YOUR definition of ethics?

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#29
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/04/2009 7:47 AM

There is only one Ethics in Business that is there no Ethics to be observed.

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#13

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 9:13 AM

Where's the regulation?

The goal in business is not to do 'good', but to turn a profit. The population is now starting to realise that the game is rigged, and not in their favour.

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#21
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 12:50 PM

Do you need regulation to give you ethics? What are your ethics and how do you define Your ethics?

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#59
In reply to #21

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

05/12/2009 8:57 AM

"As the bough is bent thus shall it grow"

Ethics is started,ingrained,absorbed at home at a young age.

Sadly this is obsolete.A man's word means little or nothing,ie: your average politician.

I am saddened for the younger work force,greed feeds on greed,money is euphoric.For a small time,the challenge,the uncertainty,then the success is satisfying indeed.

The really important things money cant buy,the happiness of giving far exceeds the satisfaction of winning.

I have found this for myself only after years of poverty and riches

Peace of mind is the most sought after commodity in existance

Yet it is so simple to find.

My fear for the next generation,the drive for success,the belief that YOU can do it,almost brings tears to my eyes.How i love all of you,yet I know you do not think as i do.

peace

Joe in Texas

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#60
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

05/12/2009 9:18 AM

I 100% agree. Question is - Is this just a cycle or the beginning of the end?

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#14

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 9:32 AM

The regulations currently in place, if proper oversight prevailed, were adequate to have seen and even prevented the failures we now suffer. Making regulations tougher will only add burden to existing and new businesses, and stifle growth. The responsibility for oversight has failed, and until that is corrected (if even politically possible) the "business trust" we used to count on is of little value.

The "too big to fail" even has preventive monopoly and anti trust laws which are not properly applied. Governments generally have neither the knowledge nor the political will to correct this issue, or we would have heard an admission and a plan to fix the oversight problem.

Many of our laws and regulations were enacted by men of faith who did not have the vision (or need at the time) to plan for an unethical majority. Yes, all religions espouse moral ethics and personal integrity. So why doesn't it all work as it used to? We do not have a crisis of religion. What we have is a crisis of true faith where the majority acts on what they truly believe! It is impossible to legislate what needs to be in the hearts of men. Forget more regulation! As with the addict who must "hit bottom" before recovery is possible, the question should be: will we destroy the capitalistic opportunities which made us a great nation before we regain the faith and trust to work together once again?

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#22
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 12:51 PM

So, without regulation, you would have no ethics?

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#25
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 2:05 PM

The existence of ethics (no intended harm or violating the full intent of the laws - my definition) is already guided by regulation. It is the oversight and enforcement (however well performed) that is the deterrent to violating those regulations. If there were no regulations, ethics could still exist, but there would be no protection or deterrent for the unethical.

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#26
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 6:43 PM

Thank you for YOUR definition of ethics. At least one can tell where you are coming from. It seems that your issue is regulation; its oversight and enforcement. It is obvious to me that you feel you need protection from those that do not define ethics as you define them. You seem to indicate that they are the unethical. I'm sure it was a typo but why would you want to protect the unethical? And, I'm curious, could you regard the 'unethical' as, say, barbarians?

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#41
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/06/2009 9:57 AM

Yes - protection from...... Barbarian is a relative term and too simple a trap to fall into. You can rationalize all day long, justifying your actions based on beliefs, religions and "definitions" of ethics. Those rationalizations then become your relief from the guilt you (may) feel when you knowingly do wrong. When those actions will knowingly harm others it is the only true measure of an ethical or moral violation.

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#49
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/07/2009 12:56 AM

Thank you. You hit the bait. May I clarify that I am not trying to rationalize anything -neither GOOD, nor, EVIL. My relief comes from knowing that what I do is my decision. I may feel uneasy about having been forced by events to have my decisions influenced and that is because it was beyond my control. Certainly guilt will be induced when it can be proven to me that I was in violation of my personal ethics and moral grounds. That proof will have to be in context with the reality of the incident and in relation to my ability to control my decision.

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#16

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 11:26 AM

Don't forget -- what you are frustrated about are the headlines.

There are thousands (maybe milliions) of good businesses operating ethically all the time.

There are crooks in every field -- we are talking about crooks -- it is not a matter of business ethics.

It is disgusting, however.

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#23
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 12:54 PM

We are still without everybody's definition of their ethics.

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#17

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 11:58 AM

Having attended a few business ethics training courses for CEUs, I can tell you business ethics course are not an attempt to teach business people to be more ethical people, they are an attempt to help define the gray area from the black are of legal ethical obligations, so business people know how far to push before they need to start covering things up, which is also something they teach indirectly that when at risk a paper trail isn't something you want. Business ethics is really a way to describe how to take increasing risks without increasing potential consequences.

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#24
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 12:56 PM

Do you have then, a definition of ethics?

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#27

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 6:47 PM

To answer the question, "Where's the ethics in business?" It is in you and me. It is in our personal honor and our good name. And maybe we can spread it to others by the way we act. If we act ethically, people will trust us and will want to do business with us. So why are some people unethical? It is because of selfishness; plain ans simple. They may value money above all else, including themselves, and are looking for the quick easy fast dollar so they can live "the good life" now.

I remember a true story in which a group of business executives, all quite wealthy, were on their way through and airport to catch a flight to a conference. One went to purchase a newspaper and once he opened the machine offered free papers to everyone. All but one took him up on the offer. The one who abstained, when questioned as to why, asked the group, "What is your name or reputation worth? What is your personal honor worth? I won't sell my honor for a quarter (25 cents)." That shut their mouths. All of them put their newspapers back or slid a quarter into the machine.

Our individual ethics is an unwritten code that we live by and function by. It is based on our belief system which includes our religious beliefs, the beliefs and behaviors instilled in us by our parents, the beliefs and behaviors we have absorbed from our society and culture, our self worth and our system of assigning worth to others. If The essence of ethics is that we do not harm anyone else, no matter how lowly they may be, physically, emotionally or financially for our own benefit. We would be honest, fair and respectful in all our dealings. This asserts our self-worth, our honor and the worth of the individuals we deal with. Business ethics is an attempt to put this code into words based upon these beliefs and ideas as envisioned by the one writing it combined with obedience to international, national, and local laws. The fact that the management of a company or business group does not ascribe to or behave in a manner that matches an appropriate business ethic is the real question. It should not be, "Where's the ethics in business?" but, "Why aren't more of our business leaders and managers ethical in their behavior?" The simplest answer is selfishness and greed. It poisons ones ethics and colors ones decisions.

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#28
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/03/2009 10:34 PM

Ethics: "It is in you and it is in me" I believe our own President Clinton once said, it all depends on how you define IT! I agree with you that it IS in you and in me. But do we have the same ethics? If we do not, are your ethics more right than my own? Would I be selfish because I don't see things your way? You say..."Our individual ethics is an unwritten code that we live by and function by. It is based on our belief system which includes our religious beliefs, the beliefs and behaviors instilled in us by our parents, the beliefs and behaviors we have absorbed from our society and culture, our self worth and our system of assigning worth to others". Then you go on to say..."The fact that the management of a company or business group does not ascribe to or behave in a manner that matches an appropriate business ethic is the real question." I agree with you here.....BUT, who is selfish you, or, everybody else that does not have the same ethics as you? Everybody is sold on their own ethics, whether you like them or not. Don't forget that just because one can recite the Bible, that does not make one a theologian.

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#30
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/04/2009 8:23 AM

Excellent post!

I agree that there is a fuzzy line between cultures and countries and morality can be somewhat shifting. However, for the most part there is a lot of common ground between humans no matter where they reside.

There is a marked difference between what is perceived unethical or immoral and what violates the law of the land. To clarify that, suppose that you travel to another country where a business practice is employed that violates a law in your own country, yet is not illegal there. There may be laws in your own country that would prohibit you from engaging in that practice, but if not, how do you proceed?

In this case you have a choice. You can accept that practice or you can reject it. As a foreigner you can object to engage in that practice on the basis of your own scruples. You have a moral right to object, but you do not have the right to force the local business to abide by your standards. However, you can choose not to do business with that company on the grounds that it offends your honor.

I have had several courses on business ethics working for companies that have international offices. In the US we were instructed that we shall abide by a code of ethics that is laid out by our company. These ethics are framed within the boundaries of US and international law and they also were bound to a set of ethics developed by that company.

So, in the third paragraph I cited an abstract example. A specific example might be the exchange of gifts or money between businesses or their agents to encourage an exchange of business between the two entities. Clearly this is a case where laws can vary and what may be an acceptable practice for one is considered unacceptable for another. The right choice, we were told, was that no exchange could take place for anything of real value. That definition is a little arbitrary, but the point was, even if it was considered legal and a normal practice for that culture, we were obligated not to accept or participate in that practice based on our own company's set of ethics, even if that breaks the deal.

In the end, there is huge power among the consumer (be that an industry, a government, or private individuals) to demand conformity from any business to perform to ethical business practices. In the end, if we as individuals want others to perform to a high standard of conduct, then we need only act by our principles. If a company violates our own ethics, then a principled consumer would not patronize that company. If enough people follow that doctrine, then that business would change its ethics, or perish. I have an issue with those that demand that a government nanny every move a business takes when the people have the power to shape that behavior. Why surrender our power?

"Corporate Profit" gets a a lot of negative news lately, but it is a powerful correcting force in free enterprise. Corporate profit becomes evil only when we, the consumer, surrender our principles for personal gain. It is immoral to compromise ones own set of ethics and principles. It is a an even larger sin to blame others for our ills.

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#31
In reply to #30

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/04/2009 1:46 PM

This is getting to be very interesting. It seems the subject ethics like opinions can be confusing and are certainly widespread. Surely they are on every mind – even if only a passing thought. Myself, I can only speak from deep empirical business experience.( boots on the ground) I think that companies construct codes – not ethics. Codes are regulatory – constructed by the corporation primarily to assuage the investor conscience; making its shares more palatable and marketable and to be followed by employees, unless excused by management. Corporations frame codes – not ethics. The corporation is only legally an entity and will not be met at the 'Pearly Gate!' Ethics are arrogant by nature and regulations are a control. Both can be followed and disdained. Ethics on the one hand are personal to ones own sovereignty and religiously, supposedly, one will be held accountable at the 'Pearly Gate.' This is important to mindset in regard to rebellion in either case. Codes are framed by others, but, your decisions are your own and according to edignon: "there are no consequences for doing wrong and no rewards for doing right." Further, he says: "I don't think the answer lies in trying to get visibility and oversight to prevent it, I think the answer lies in the consequences."…. WOODROOSTER thinks, that if a code(regulation) compromises your personal sovereignty (ethics) then you have a personal decision to make. A regulation can be rebelled and there will be no consequence if the event does not become a visible issue. On the other hand according to edignon: "the entire event was watched by the entire country, many of whom simply cheered it along when we all knew better and you don't need an MBA, nor a class in ethics to know what is going on is wrong."…However, he says: " But when yours is the only firm missing out and you stand with enough thieves that your sector demands bailing out when the bottom hits .." WOODROOSTER suggests, that this is when you remember – you went THERE Your right to be there was granted to you, by that sovereign nation, partly based upon your agreement to abide by their version of whatever – or- don't go there for that purpose. Anonymous hero, I noticed in your post, even you indicate that there is a US law and an international law. Which is more correct and when? Perhaps, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" - or, not? Why go there in the first place? It could be surmised from your post, others must conform to a company's codes, which are considered by the company to be of "high standard" and to be conformed to by all 'Romans.' Otherwise, those 'Romans' that do not, will be considered 'unprincipled' - no matter what's going on in 'Rome'! They must compromise their own sovereignty to make decisions because the corporation regards them as wrong. They are free of course to 'break the deal' since their demands offend the corporation. If they were principled, they would have thought of this before considering dealing with the corporation. The corporation has obligations to it's shareholders, which will not be compromised, just because the corporation requested permission to come to 'Rome' to deal. (Obviously, without thinking of guest status) WOODROOSTER thinks one can not regulate a personal opinion. One CAN influence it ; but, not through arrogance.

SO, where is the ethics in business?

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#32
In reply to #31

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/04/2009 4:20 PM

Sorry, I am having a hard time following some of your points. However, "When in Rome..." does not constitute that you should act at their level, particularly if it violates your personal scruples or the ethics/codes your business represents.

Let me cite an extreme example that does not necessarily represent a business deal, but have a look at this link and the associated video.

Now, let's assume that you do not ethically support Sharia law. How do you respond when invited by a business acquaintance to view a relative's public beating? Will you do as they do or do you walk?

I think that there is a general misconception that the vast majority of business are basically whores for the dollar and will do anything they want and can if they feel they won't get their hands caught in the cookie jar. I can certainly understand why this perception prevails in the minds of many when the mainstream media (and now a new administration in the US) goes out of their way to demonize capitalism.

I have worked and worked with many business both large and small and I can not report the rampant greed and unethical practices that many believe exist. I know that there are some bad people that work in the free market and I know some of them break the law. However, I do not support the idea that we need to throw out the baby with the bath water nor to sign on to the mantra that government is the answer.

Finally, you asked, "SO, where is the ethics in business?" If your definition for ethics is a persoanl and religious based set of scruples, then there is no place for ethics in business. However, I am certain that there are rules of conduct that are defined by local, federal, and international law as well as conduct that is dictated by the expectations of that company's clients. Most business do a pretty good job, I believe, of making a honest effort to do the right thing by those "codes of conduct".

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#34
In reply to #32

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/05/2009 3:05 PM

Anonymous Hero: Sorry for my delay, I am on medication and yesterday was not exactly my day. I did make a reply to you and then clicked it to Mars somehow and didn't have the strength to redo it. Today, after I read my post that you are replying to - I extend my most embarrassing apologies. I rambled on and was quite disconnected and more embarrassing - I misquoted a few people. If you are reading this post and I did that to you - sorry. I usually disappear for a few days when I get this way. It's so embarrassing to find yourself slobbering like a sophomore and as unprofessional as a 'town drunk'! Now, I have to review all the blogs I in which I am participating and see if I've done this elsewhere. For some reason, when I preview comment, all of my paragraphs go away and I end up with this block form, which does not let me emphasize amongst other things and making a very boring read when I have a long reply. Maybe you know what I am doing wrong, or at least, not doing right. I use Windows live hotmail and Safari with Comcast cable. I want to reply to you because I have something to say important to me anyway . But it will be a little latter and also, to the dentist post. Thanks for your patience.

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#38
In reply to #34

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/06/2009 7:57 AM

Ah, ha! Safari is the problem with the paragraphs. Try FireFox (what I use) and magic will happen.

I think you can also manually put in paragraphs by adding the HTML tags </P> and <P> and it should break the line for you, but you may have to check your personal settings in CR4.

Sorry about the meds. Hope you are back on course!

Regards,

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#35
In reply to #32

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/06/2009 12:14 AM

There I did it again! deleted an entire response. OK, I'm back and in better shape. Please bear with me on my disjointed points.. You say: 'When in Rome'...."does not constitute that you should act at their level, particularly if it violates your personal scruples or the ethic/codes your business represents." WOW! That is a loaded statement. First of all, you and I and a legally registered company are legal entities. BUT, you and I are HUMAN entities - not the company, Human beings have ethics. Companies codify ethics and choose the most advantageous codes to the company's business as possible. You and I will probably have different objectives then the company based upon our ethics, which, as someone earlier alluded, is instilled in us from birth, through our family, religion, and environment. The only thing instilled in a business is cash - from investment and from revenue. Businesses - do not make babies! They are dead entities. Those codes are framed by the corporation to encourage more investment - in fact it is a necessary accessory to the company image. If it involves me personally, yes I may damn well head for the hills but, If I have to measure against the framework of company codes - it is my job to do that judiciously and always with the company's exposure in mind - legally; publicly and its profitability! AMEN!

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#39
In reply to #35

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/06/2009 8:08 AM

Okay, it is just symmantics of definition. However, corporations are made by and run by people. Companies have a "culture", which is the aggregate of its people. So, it is not a stretch, in my mind, to say that there are many things that can be instilled in a company beyond cash.

I have worked for examples of that in both large, medium, and small companies.

One of my first jobs, before becoming an engineer, demonstrated that fact very plainly. The owner had an exceptional vision of what his company should be and how it would interact with their customers. He spent a lot of time training us and building a team that was customer centric. Those ethics have paid off extremely well for him and his business. He became a giant in the industry quickly and has continued to grow. There is profit in ethics and it is a win-win situation.

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#47
In reply to #39

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/07/2009 12:10 AM

I don't think it is just "symmantics of definition". Ethics and its application can be very subjective. Therefore, definitive clarity is essential to any debate, presentation - propagation of ethics. Companies are an entity - on paper. They may be legal, or illegal. When the IRS deals with this entity - it does not deal with the aggregate of the company's employees and founders, nor, investors. All of whom own, manage, operate that entity. Those people may even HAVE a culture. So what? It has nothing to do with the legal definition of that entity. It must account for the taxes it owes to the IRS to justify its very being legally.. Not one of the aggregate will be responsible for the taxes owed on the profits accountable to the entity. Accountability falls to the entity and responsibility to generate that profit falls to the aggregate. Ethics has nothing to do with this. Cash does.

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#50
In reply to #47

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/07/2009 7:17 AM

Well, that is where we differ on this. A company is nothing but an empty shell without its people. I don't believe the dictionary definition is limited to a human being. In fact, the definition cited (#2b) does assign ethics to an individual or group.

The people associated with that company make it, by virtue of its culture, a good company or a bad company, a company that runs by the rules or one that violates the rules. Sometimes rouge members run amok within the company, sometimes it it conspiratorial in its nature.

The IRS deals with you and your wife when you file jointly as a household. Your household is the entity (group) the IRS sees with both of your social security numbers attached to that filing.

I agree that ethics have nothing to do with the IRS collecting cash for taxes due, but it does have something to do on how it (tax revenue) is reported and how the company executes its business.

Ethics within a business is simply a part of a wider business plan. The plan may detail what the business will do; ethics detail, in part, how that plan is executed and the rules of engagement.

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#53
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/07/2009 11:59 PM

Still, one of the very first lessons you should have been thought, is that a successful business plan is not laid in cement, nor, cast in steel. Certainly, you could agree that virtuosity is an extreme of relativity. As far as I am concerned, 'good companies and bad companies' are measured by return on investment and 'sustainability'.

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#54
In reply to #53

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/08/2009 8:44 AM

As far as I am concerned, 'good companies and bad companies' are measured by return on investment and 'sustainability'

I somewhat disagree. Yes - it is the focus on ROI of directors and shareholders which creates a strain on management's ethics, but as seen in recent painful events, there is no sustainability when ethics are violated and harm is done.

Danced around it long enough - so what is your definition of ethics, and would you agree to abide by a majority definition even if it disagreed with your personal ethics?

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#55
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/08/2009 8:44 PM

AHHH! i Thought you'd never ask? Thanks to you, I now won't have to appear precocious. From my own expiations, you might fear that I could be tone deaf and dance only to the rhythm felt through my keyboard. Perhaps, that's because I am sitting by the bar meditating over a bourbon while YOU'RE on the floor with the 'moves!' To answer your question: NO! At least I have that much principle. My personal ethics are not subject to abiding to, nor, subject to any majority's definition of behavior - except by my choice. My personal ethics are subject only to me and applicable, by me, to any particular incident, by choice. This may be by acquiescence, to personal, or legal responsibility to myself and others effected by a particular incident - where I have some control of the event. But, that responsibility is subject to self definition at the time of the incident and I will only adhere to my principles of: physical self preservation; the same with others; ideology. I do not portend to do anything heroic, but, I will not know what's in my gut until confronted, nor, can I portend my reaction. In regard to ethics then, I might not always appear to be a team player. I am sure you will have some comment.

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#56
In reply to #55

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/09/2009 11:38 AM

I am sure you will have some comment.

You are correct!

Thanks to you, I now won't have to appear precocious.

You owe me no thanks, the choice to be precocious was yours!

Perhaps, that's because I am sitting by the bar meditating over a bourbon while YOU'RE on the floor with the 'moves!'

Maybe I have been in the sunshine too long, but I believe I have tried to be direct about my views on business ethics. If you think I am the one who has been (metaphorically) dancing, we disagree.

my principles of: physical self preservation; the same with others; ideology.

All games aside, I totally agree with your principles and your responsibility of individual choice. There can still exist a vast difference between "self preservation" and "doing no harm". Don't you think that the "personal ideologies" of unethical businessmen (and politicians) are the root cause of the situation which prompted the blog entry question? If ethics, by definition a body of principals of good conduct, cannot be an agreement of individuals who abide by those principals, then they have no value. It is even more reprehensible, when the personal ideologies and selfish motives of those responsible to insure that the body of principals are maintained, causes them to fail that responsibility!

I happen to believe that if you are person of good character and principal and can not abide by the ethics of a business (or the laws or regulations of a "community") you have a moral responsibility to leave. If you fail a contracted responsibility to oversee those regulations, you should be removed from that responsibility by persons of good moral character and principal. When a diversity of ideologies overrides business ethics and regulatory oversight, and the majority allows it to prevail, it is our choice and we have no one to blame but ourselves!

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#57
In reply to #56

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/09/2009 3:12 PM

Yeah, that's what I said.

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#36
In reply to #32

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/06/2009 12:45 AM

"Now, let's assume that you do not ethically support Sharia law. How do you respond when invited by a business acquaintance to view a relative's public beating? Will you do as they do or do you walk?" This has already happened. It was a public beheading by sword. The crime was incest. There were no 'invitations' and no place to 'walk'. Everybody knows that these things happen and one may well be caught up in it. One has to make certain decisions about personal compromise that may well be part of the game. One has to make, or, not make the commitment PRIOR to going there. These are not -" WOW, I cant believe this is really happening to me!" situations. If you had ethics and scruples before you went there, I assure you they will be scrambled eggs when you leaver there. Regarding Sharia law, just tell me how long its been there. I think a hell of a lot longer then we've been the United States! The ocean drowns people by surprise usually and mercilessly - often without justification. Yet we will walk on the beach and let the ocean lap at our feet. Without question, nor, damnation. Don't we do what most everybody does - it's natural.

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#42
In reply to #36

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/06/2009 10:17 AM

"If you had ethics and scruples before you went there, I assure you they will be scrambled eggs when you leaver there." Your eggs become scrambled when you justify your actions on ethical or moral relativism, compromise and irresponsibility. The "evil' ocean does not drown people, people drown in the ocean, whether the risk was within their control or not. Intimating that we should then live peacefully beside evil is a good example of misguided relativism. Longevity is not a measure of what is right.

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#43
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/06/2009 11:54 AM

I think I have to be more blunt to be clear. When you are pulled out of your vehicle and dragged to the front seat - that, does not constitute an invitation! One's actions in this case, warrant no justification. Ethical, or, moral relativism? Whew! Relative to what? Suicide? Compromise? yes, you will - if you're sane and have any street smarts at all. Irresponsibility? I guess you're right - we should all stay home and watch TV - where everything turns out all right. How would you live beside that kind of evil - passing out protest pamphlets? Please guide me - I feel misguided. Some take the chance that nothing like that will happen to them. Some are fortunate and others learn to become inured. That person was tried and found guilty by that country's own laws and the consequences were paid. Perhaps, more Americans should have the same done to them at one of our own executions. Oh yeah, we are the US - our executions are not misguided - we have US law! Better maybe, that if its going to happen to a principaled person, that it happen in a misguided country - so complaint of such action might be made and we could cite company framed codes as a proper example of how the entire world should be run. Longevity is often relative to one's own smarts.

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#46
In reply to #43

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/06/2009 4:51 PM

I apologise for the satirical reference to the ocean as evil. I fear it has created a misunderstanding. We have little control over whether we are comforted or destroyed by its natural forces (other than "staying home"). We have much control over the ethical decisions we make; but, like the misguided one who beheads, we (as flawed humans) sometimes rationalize and justify that doing harm is somehow good, sometimes choosing to ignore or knowingly violate codes of conduct or established law. There is always a choice, it just depends on personal character what choice we make. There is always a consequence, however just or unjust it may be.

The measure of justification of just laws and enforcement is not how long they have been around, but the "fruit they bear". It all goes back to faith (what you truly believe) and sometimes religion (what you do about what you believe). Can we ever justify the taking of a life (for example)? Thankfully, this example is not the within the business ethics of this thread

Oversight and enforcement of business laws and regulations are better than nothing as a deterrent, but they will never replace the choices we (as individuals or groups) should make based on the true, unbiased belief that we should "do no one harm".

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#48
In reply to #46

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/07/2009 12:20 AM

Didn't Moses say all of this on Mt Sinai?

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#51
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/07/2009 8:50 AM

Not that I am aware of - I was not there, and you? I doubt he provided a discourse on business ethics.

"Please guide me - I feel misguided". You shouldn't have asked if you did not mean it.

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#52
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/07/2009 11:21 PM

It must have been a presumptuous moment for me, considering your own rationalization. How could I have known? At least I no longer feel misguided.

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#44
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/06/2009 12:04 PM

Replace the word ocean with the word EVIL (whatever that means to you) and you might get the idea! In the predicament just described - I'll bet you couldn't even spell the word relativism - your mindset will be numb.

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#45
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Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/06/2009 12:10 PM

Nobody ever drowned, that I know of - breathing air!

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#33

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/05/2009 12:53 PM

What about ethics in medicine? It has reached epic proportions in the dentristy profession. Have you noticed that you no longer need fillings, only crowns. I wish someone who hates the idea of regulation would tell me how I am to know if they are stealing from me or not. (They kicked me out of dentistry school when I attempted to give the dean's wife an enema.)

Do you know how to tell if a tool and die or mold shop refuses to give kickbacks? Easy. They are the ones with no work or just the scraps and leavings the others don't want. No harm done? Management of large corporations demanding kickbacks pass the cost on to consumers. Think how this effects the price of what you buy if they demand a 10% kickback from every supplier of materials and services. Think how those who lionize business and oppose regulation would react if labor was getting these kickbacks and not management.

Think the Wall Street gang should be able to do as they please? Look around you. This could end up in famine. It did during the time I was a baby, not centuries ago.

Business ethics exist only in the mind of the business man and his own concience.

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#37

Re: Where's the Ethics in Business?

04/06/2009 3:28 AM

"Business ethics" is an oxymoron.

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