Should Virtue Be Rewarded?

Should Virtue Be Rewarded?

This is another one of those stories. I am always reading them. Another company discarded ethics, fired those who would practice it and promoted those who “aggressively sought profit.”

According to McClatchy, Moody’s Investor Services, fired employees who warned the company of problems with their ratings of mortgage based investments and actively promoted those who helped create the second largest economic crisis in American history after the great depression.

When the company went public in 2000 it granted its middle managers stock options. This had a corrosive effect on the integrity of the rating process. To quote from the article:

“It didn’t force you into a corrupt decision, but none of us thought we were going to make money working there, and suddenly you look at a statement online and it’s (worth) hundreds and hundreds of thousands (of dollars). And it’s beyond your wildest dreams working there that you could make that kind of money,” said one former mid-level manager, who requested anonymity to protect his current Wall Street job.

Now, what do you say? As a teacher of business ethics, this is one of those real life examples, it might be best your students never heard about. After all, when the hero in the white hat is unceremoniously dumped and those who have damaged the economic fabric of modern civilization are promoted and enriched(from what I can tell, apparently very enriched). Given the example, you have to wonder why anyone would take business ethics seriously.

The article indicates that if you were willing to give investments whatever their actual value a good rating, in many cases a triple A rating, you were promoted and given more money. Thousand of people relied on these ratings to determine what to invest in. Those unfortunate enough to rely on these credit rating agencies lost large sums of money. We are talking about minimally billions of dollars. These are inconsequential investors like retirements funds, endowments for educational institutions, and charitable organizations.

Can you doubt for a moment that our civilization is damaged by this kind of behavior. Can you doubt that those who did these things and profited should be punished so that others might be deterred? I see an investigation in progress by the Securities and Exchange Commission but aren’t they the ones who didn’t see a problem in the first place?

Unless these people are punished, do jail time, have their profits taken from them and be socially stigmatized, there is no reason for my students and the rest of the public to say the right things to me and other do-gooders; and then take the money. After all, isn’t that what the “real world” says to do?

This is the link to the McClatchy story:

This is the link to the book, A Colossal Failure of Common Sense, by Lawrence McDonald.

I recommend you visit Lawrence McDonald’s web site at:

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