Ethics Unwrapped Blog

wake forest

Lessons from Wakey-Leaks

My wife often tells people that there is nothing that I enjoy more than watching men argue with other men about sports. Therefore, I greatly enjoy ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” (PTI) with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon. Both men are funny, passionate, and knowledgeable, though Kornheiser has the great misfortune of resembling me physically. On […]

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Let’s Stop the Self-Inflicted Moral Wounds

The front page of the New York Times (Austin edition) on Wednesday, October 11 was particularly depressing. The stories on California’s fires and Puerto Rico’s post-Maria suffering were brutal enough. Depending on your views regarding climate change, you may or may not believe that humans played a role in the severity of those events. But […]

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A Cautionary Tale

The commonly-held belief that ethical scandals are caused most frequently by “bad eggs” or “rogue actors” continues to take a beating as more and more literature supports the behavioral ethics research, featured in many of our Ethics Unwrapped videos.  This behavioral research shows that most ethical lapses feature good people doing bad things because they […]

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Why They Do It

I shared a list of books for budding behavioral ethicists a few weeks ago. Now I want to recommend to everyone that they read Harvard Law School professor Eugene Soltes’s new book: Why They Do It: Inside the Mind of the White-Collar Criminal (Public Affairs, 2016). Several years ago, Professor Soltes began studying many of […]

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Teaching with Ethics Unwrapped

For the Budding Behavioral Ethicist…

I am occasionally asked for additional resources (beyond our free videos, cases, and other materials) for those trying to learn about behavioral ethics.  Toward that end, I include below a list of 25 books that I think would be very helpful to anyone wishing to learn more about the topic of behavioral ethics.  The most […]

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seeking adam smith

Seeking Adam Smith

My friend and former colleague, Eli Cox, a distinguished professor of marketing at UT-Austin for more than 40 years, has made a wonderful contribution to business ethics education by writing Seeking Adam Smith: Finding the Shadow Curriculum of Business. His book diagnoses perhaps the major shortcoming in ethics education across business schools today and nicely […]

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Book Recommendation: “The Undoing Project”

Michael Lewis is the talented nonfiction author whose books “Moneyball,” “The Blind Side,” and “The Big Short” have been made into excellent and popular movies. His latest work, “The Undoing Project,” has an odd title, but is very much worth a read. It would take a creative genius to turn it into a movie, but […]

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imm post

Terrorism. Security. Facts.

“Educate yourself!”   That’s the tag line of our latest Ethics Unwrapped video – Propaganda: Ethics & the Media. In these divisive times, it is our responsibility as citizens to do so. American values are clashing and we all have a moral obligation as citizens of a democracy to protect our values and to ensure that […]

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Drain the swamp

The Swamp: To Drain or Not To Drain

I don’t always agree with President-elect Donald Trump, but I concurred when he tweeted, in the wake of House Republicans’ secretive January 2, 2017 vote to gut the Independent Ethics Office: “With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as […]

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Propaganda

Propaganda: Ethics & the Media

At an ethics conference in Virginia this year, Cara Biasucci and I met some of the people involved in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s exhibit, State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda, which focuses on propaganda in Germany before and during WWII. Anyone who visits this exhibit, currently on display at the Bullock Texas State […]

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wellsfargo

Wells Fargo Goes Far to Cheat Customers

At the McCombs School of Business I teach an MBA course entitled “The Legal and Ethical Environment of Finance.” I fear that I may have to retitle it “The Illegal and Unethical Environment of Finance.” The finance sector seems to be a cesspool in so many ways, unfortunately.Yesterday I had no sooner finished reading a […]

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Kaepernick, Trump, and Clinton

Many people are rightly concerned with the polarization evident in our political discourse. Most supporters of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would likely admit that their candidate is flawed, but cannot imagine why anyone would vote for the other candidate. People who are considering voting for the other candidate must be stupid or venal. Or […]

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Ryan_Lochte

Hey Ryan Lochte: Own It!

To be Olympic-caliber swimmers, no matter how great their natural talent, young men and women must hit the pool early in the morning day after day, week after week, and month after month for years, swimming miles and miles and miles in the process. The character that it takes to make these sacrifices and to […]

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Jack_Abramoff

Quid Pro Quo, Oh No! Abramoff on McDonnell

When corrupt people who want something from the government come together in common cause with corrupt government officials, the results are not pretty. Thus Virginia businessman Jonnie Williams, who wanted Virginia’s public universities to study a nutritional supplement that his company made, came together with Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife. Soon $170,000 in […]

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Baylor

Baylor Football: A Brief Behavioral Autopsy

The darkest days in college athletics since the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal brought down the sainted Joe Paterno and permanently sullied Penn State University’s reputation are playing out in Waco at the nation’s largest Baptist university. The Baylor sexual assault scandal raises the question: How can values become so skewed when leadership is […]

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VW

Our Cheating Culture

There has been a lot of news about cheating lately. It turns out that as long ago as 2006, a top technology executive (not a rogue underling) at Volkswagen made a Power point presentation detailing how to cheat on diesel emissions tests. Perhaps the company felt it needed to cheat to keep up with the […]

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Biases of a Supreme Court Justice

Justice Antonin Scalia will likely go down as one of the brightest minds, most forceful writers, and most colorful characters ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. In many ways, he was a “giant” of the Court, as many of his obituary writers are stressing. But Justice Scalia was also a poster child for […]

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The Good, the Bad, and the Future

In a recent op-ed piece, I decried the state of ethics in today’s business community. The Volkswagen emissions fraud, the Peanut Corporation of American contamination cover-up, and Turing Pharmaceuticals’ 5,000% price increase for a particular drug all happened virtually simultaneously and threw me into a bit of a funk. Every day on Wall Street, it […]

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No More Teachable Moments, Please!

As a business professor, I’m always looking for teachable moments, in which a very relevant, very vivid event can make an impression upon my students and point them in the right direction. But today I say: Enough already. No more teachable moments, please. Volkswagen, my students already know that it’s wrong to put software in […]

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Do Bad, Feel Good: The Peril of Rationalization

Dinesh D’Souza is a public intellectual with a strong conservative Christian bent. He is also a convicted criminal, an admitted adulterer, and a raging hypocrite. A recent interview printed in the New York Times Magazine on July 5, 2015 illustrates very clearly how, as behavioral ethics teaches, people can do very bad things yet continue […]

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A Better Game Plan for Student Athletes

The University of Texas at Austin announced the creation of a Center for Sports Leadership and Innovation this year. Part of the Center’s mission, as currently envisioned, is to teach high school athletics coaches how to deal with various behavioral and other off-field matters involving their student athletes. Helping coaches “develop their students as people,” […]

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Moral Lessons from an OU Frat House

The headlines from the SAE house at the University of Oklahoma and from the Department of Justice’s report on policing in Ferguson, MO., remind us that open racism continues to plague America and we must never stop fighting it. Just watching the movie “Selma” is not enough. It is heartening, of course, to see whites […]

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Deciding to Dope

Recently three things came across my desk nearly simultaneously. One was a report that Lance Armstrong had told a BBC interviewer: “If you take me back to 1995, when [doping] was completely and totally pervasive, I’d probably do it again. People don’t like to hear that.” (Rapp, 2015) Second, was a report that two MMA […]

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DeflateGate and the FAE

At this writing I do not know whether the New England Patriots are guilty or innocent of the charge that they cheated in the AFC Championship game by playing with improperly deflated footballs. Soon, I hope, the truth will come out. The Pats may be completely innocent. What I do know is that there is […]

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America is Awesome… Right?!

As Senator Ted Cruz recognized this week, “Every civilized nation agrees that torture is wrong.” I take it as a given that many of the actions spelled out in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s majority report constitute torture by any reasonable definition. Americans certainly would have defined them as such had they been done to Americans […]

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Ethics in the Field

Many of our Ethics Unwrapped videos present ideas produced by the new research field of behavioral ethics, which studies why people make the ethical (and unethical) decisions that they do. Much of the research comes from behavioral psychology and the “heuristics and biases” research stream created by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman and his late […]

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Rethinking Ethics Education

In a recent Business Week column, Deborrah Himsel of the Thunderbird School noted, accurately, that business schools are trying harder than ever to teach their students lessons in ethics. She was equally on target in pointing out that there is a lot of room left for improvement. She cited several recent FCPA violations by Wal-Mart, […]

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Abuse for All to See

The firestorm over domestic abuse ignited by the staggered public release of two videos of Ray Rice and his then-girlfriend and now wife Janay Palmer illustrates one important finding of the behavioral ethics research that underlies many of our Ethics Unwrapped educational videos:  many moral judgments are emotion-driven. It seems to most people that their […]

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Why Good Teachers Do Bad Things

Rachel Aviv’s article “Wrong Answer” in a recent New Yorker issue presents a textbook case of why good people do bad things.  The article tells the story of the recent cheating scandal in the Atlanta School District, which was one of the worst of a string of school cheating scandals across the U.S.  Forty-four of […]

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Say What?! Arational Persuasion

There is considerable evidence that how a question is framed can greatly affect how people answer it.  Framing effects can cause well-intentioned people to make unethical decisions, as you can see by watching our Concepts Unwrapped video Framing, or our Cases Unwrapped video Jack & Framing. A commonly cited example of how framing can affect […]

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Incentivizing the VA

Our Concepts Unwrapped video on Incentive Gaming, with content and narration provided by Professor Lamar Pierce of Washington University-St. Louis’s Olin School of Business, explains how many people will game incentive systems if given the opportunity.  School teachers will teach to the test if they are rewarded based on how many of their students pass […]

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Helping Your Employees Be Their Best Selves

There is no single correct way to teach business ethics.  A common approach combines philosophy and character development.  Teachers impart philosophical concepts for resolving difficult ethical issues and encourage students to develop and hone strength of character to give them the means to actually implement the solutions that develop. Any regular reader of this blog […]

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5 Tips for A Peaceful Holiday Season

Happy Ethical Holidays! In his recent book “Drunk Tank Pink,” marketing professor Adam Alter demonstrates how color affects many peoples’ decisions and actions in ways they do not realize or understand.  A famous study shows, for example, that men arrested for public intoxication tend to be much less combative if confined in rooms painted pink […]

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Tools for Teaching Ethics

On a day (October 15, 2013) when the New York Times is carrying articles on former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s guilty pleas to attacks on women, on an indictment of a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old girl on felony charges in connection with the bullying-caused suicide of another 12-year-old girl, and on possible accounting irregularities […]

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The Power of Empathy

Many of our Ethics Unwrapped videos carry messages arising from the field of Behavioral Ethics.  That same area of research has demonstrated the important role emotions play in constructing our moral beliefs and shaping our moral actions.  We tend to feel guilt when we violate moral rules and shame when others find out we have […]

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You’ve Been Rated

Zach Boven, author of this post, is a recent graduate of the Business Honors Program at the McCombs School of Business.  He wrote this blog post as part of an assignment for a business law and business ethics class.  It was the best of a good lot.   A female friend of mine at Washington […]

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My Group Versus Your Group

It seems obvious that people should judge the ethicality of others’ actions in an objective and fair way.  What is not so obvious is how difficult it often is to do that.  One reason why it is difficult to make such objective judgments is our tendency to sort ourselves and others into groups and to […]

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The Atlanta School District Scandal

I was recently asked to give an ethics talk to a group of high school principals in training.  For a time my mother was a public school teacher and a principal, and in my mind these people are to be greatly admired.  Although a recent survey found teachers to be a pretty happy and satisfied […]

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Jailing Unethical Executives

Financial journalist Bethany McLean has co-written two of the best books on recent financial scandals—The Smartest Guys in the Room about the Enron debacle and All the Devils Are Here about the subprime mess.  In her blog, McLean recently addressed the question: “Does Jailing Executives Make Much Difference?” Judging from public reaction, jailing white collar […]

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Ethics Education: Part II

In my last blog entry, I discussed Melissa Korn’s recent Wall Street Journal article entitled “Does an ‘A’ in Ethics Have Any Value?”  I argued that business schools should teach ethics because, first, schools should teach what they think is important.  Second, I argued that B-schools should train those students who do wish to act […]

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Ethics Education: Part I

The title of a recent Wall Street Journal article asked:  “Does an ‘A” in Ethics Have Any Value?”  The article discussed in modest detail several issues relevant to modern business ethics education:  Should ethics be taught?  Can ethics be taught?  If the answer to those questions is ‘yes,’ should it be taught through a stand-alone […]

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Is S&P the next Enron?

In a recent New York Times column, Floyd Norris noted in detail the obvious similarities between the downfall of Arthur Andersen during the Enron debacle and the recent troubles of Standard & Poor’s and other credit rating agencies (CRAs). Arthur Andersen was in an inherent conflict-of-interest situation.  Like all auditors, it was paid by its […]

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Revenge Porn Sites

In teaching ethics in a business school, I typically focus upon decision making errors that well-intentioned people make.  I do so because I believe that most of my students do have good intentions, as do most people in business.  They want to have careers that they can be proud of. But even people of good […]

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Ethics in Politics

The inability of Congress and the President to work together to avoid the “fiscal cliff” until well after their failure to do so had caused real damage to the American economy highlights a deeply troubling problem in the U.S. democratic system.  It is tempting to put all the blame on politicians for America’s bitter ideological […]

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Conscious Capitalism

Most of my blogs have addressed individual ethical decision making with particular attention paid to behavioral ethics.  This is natural, because Ethics Unwrapped’s initial videos have largely concerned these new concepts. However, the ethical decision making and actions of business entities are also very important.  In most business ethics courses, the topic of corporate social […]

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Back to the Movies—Les Miz

In my previous Ethics Unwrapped blog post, I noted that in Steven Spielberg’s movie “Lincoln,” President Lincoln is portrayed as have taken a utilitarian ends-justify-the-means approach to securing passage of the Thirteen Amendment in order to end slavery.  Rather than follow a deontological, rule-based “thou shalt not lie” approach, Lincoln is willing to tolerate lying […]

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Lincoln the Movie

There are two primary means of resolving ethical dilemmas.  The deontological approach is rules-based–don’t lie, don’t steal, keep your promises, etc.  Then there’s the teleological or utilitarian approach, which judges the morality of competing approaches by their consequences (“greatest good for the greatest number”). Both approaches are respectable.  They often lead to the same conclusion […]

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How Will You Choose?

When Lance Armstrong realized that nearly every winning cyclist in major cycling was doping and that he would have to start doping to beat them, he started doping. When Mark McGuire realized that scores of top home run hitters in the major leagues were doping and that he would have to dope to stay among […]

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David Petraeus’s Leadership Lessons

At this writing, several military figures are very much in the news in ways that they regret, including former CIA Director David Petraeus, General John Allen, Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair, and General William Ward.  The first three are caught up in sex scandals; General Ward’s problem was being more than a little loose with taxpayer […]

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Welcome to our blog…

Welcome to the first blog post on the Ethics Unwrapped website. We at the McCombs School of Business hope the videos that we have posted and will post in the future on this website will be a valuable (and FREE!!!!!!!!) resource for all people wishing to teach ethics or to learn about ethics on their […]

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