“Greed is good.” – Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street” (a role he will reprise in “Wall Street 2”).
Yesterday the judge threw the book at Bernie Madooff, sentencing him to 150 years in prison.
Bernie Ebbers, Ken Lay, Leona Helmsley. A corporate criminal hall of shame. And, the big names are only the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
The extent of corporate crime would shock you – it shocks me. “The Top 100 Corporate Criminals of the Decade (1990s)” (LINK), a list compiled by Russell Mokhiber of corporatepredators.org exposes the depth and breadth of corporate crime.
Corporations on the list were convicted (and fined) for crimes in the following categories: financial crime, antitrust, fraud, environmental, campaign finance, food and drug, fake statements, illegal exports, obstruction of justice, bribery, tax evasion, public corruption, worker deaths, and illegal boycotts.
That’s the bad news: here’s the good news.
MBA candidates at Harvard Business School have composed a sort of Hippocratic Oath for future business managers. Of the 900 graduates of HBS' Class of 2009, more than half have signed the oath.
Let one of these graduates tell you - in her own words - about this positive development:
“Harvard University commencement took place earlier this month with all the requisite pomp and circumstance. Thousands of students paraded into the Yard, which was swathed in crimson. Graduates of the different professional schools carried symbols of their newly minted degrees. Doctors wore stethoscopes. Law students carried gavels. A few landscape architects wore caps brimming with flora. In years past, Harvard Business School graduates would distinguish themselves as the most dissolute of the bunch by waving $20 bills.
“This year, however, instead of dollars, hundreds of graduates – including myself – waved copies of The MBA Oath, a new Hippocratic-style pledge for business professionals, committing themselves to ‘create value, responsibly and ethically.’ Since the oath was published in May by a group of HBS students, more than half of the 900 graduates of the Class of 2009 signed on, along with hundreds of other MBA students and alumni from other business schools. The MBA Oath website has had thousands of visitors from over 115 countries, and business schools outside the US have requested copies of the oath translated into other languages.”
- Elaine Berkowitz, “Business graduates: do no harm,” The Guardian, 17 June 2009, LINK
So significant is this movement to take the path of moral responsibility in a field mired with corruption, I publish the oath here and hope readers will pass it along to business majors everywhere.
THE MBA OATH
As a manager, my purpose is to serve the greater good by bringing people and resources together to create value that no single individual can create alone. Therefore, I will seek a course that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term. I recognize my decisions can have far-reaching consequences that affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and in the future. As I reconcile the interests of different constituencies, I will face choices that are not easy for me and others.
Therefore, I promise:
I will act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner.
I will safeguard the interests of my shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society in which we operate.
I will manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.
I will understand and uphold, both in letter and in spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct and that of my enterprise.
I will take responsibility for my actions, and I will represent the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.
I will develop both myself and other managers under my supervision so that the profession continues to grow and contribute to the well-being of society.
I will strive to create sustainable economic, social and environmental prosperity worldwide.
I will be accountable to my peers, and they will be accountable to me for living by this oath.
This oath I make freely, and upon my honor.
The MBA Oath Web site: LINK.
Related article: “ A Hippocratic oath for managers: Forswearing greed,” Peter Schrank, The Economist, 4 June 2009, LINK
Thanks to my friend Katherine for calling attention to this story.