EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


December 6, 2013

Column: Teaching ethics would help end financial games

The media are filled with the seemingly never-ending games of financial fraud and scandal. We continue to witness a basic lack of ethical standards, the end result of which translates into higher consumer costs, economic ruin, cynicism, and most assuredly a lack of confidence in our business sector, government and society generally. And despite all of this, nothing is being done to train citizens and future business leaders concerning the simple task of proper behavior. This is playground stuff — learn to play by the rules and, where rules don’t exist, act appropriately. These are easy guidelines every kid running around an elementary school playground understands. Why is it so hard for those of us in business suits to remember what our schoolmates and playground monitors taught us?

In 2002, the New Hampshire Securities Bureau reached a $5 million agreement with Tyco Corporation concerning its alleged corporate malfeasance. At that time, that settlement was one of the largest securities settlements in the nation’s history. The funds have since been dedicated to establishing programs within higher education in the state for the advancement of ethical standards in both the private and public sectors.

Just days ago it was announced J.P. Morgan will be ponying up $13 billion to state and federal regulators to address its mortgage dealings failures. It has been estimated the remaining level of legal exposure by the largest U.S. financial institutions could result in the settlement total for alleged mortgage fraud in the United States to be in excess of $100 billion. It is now evident 2013 will likely mark the high-water mark toward addressing the responsibility of the financial-crisis era of the first decade of this century, a period resulting in two major economic slowdowns — all because of ethical lapses in our financial markets. Both periods resulted in congressional action to address regulatory shortcomings (Sarbanes-Oxley in 2002 and Dodd-Frank in 2010).

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