We started reading Jennifer Taub’s book on white collar crime–Big Dirty Money: The Shocking Injustice and Unseen Cost of White Collar Crime–on the December 2020 day that President Trump announced pardons for Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Charles Kushner and 26 other mostly white collar criminals. Coincidentally, Taub begins her book noting that: Just after Valentine’s […]
Ethics Unwrapped Blog
In earlier blog posts, we have repeatedly told tales of grandiloquent young entrepreneurs and their downfall — Elizabeth Holmes at Theranos (“Elizabeth Holmes: Scamming Silicon Valley), Billy McFarland of Fyre Festival infamy (“Under Fyre”), and Ross Ulbricht, creator of Silk Road (“Silk Road: Paved by Grandiosity”). Reeves Wiedeman’s book the Billion Dollar Loser: The Epic […]
Doctors who overprescribed OxyContin were nicknamed “whales” by Purdue Pharma. While doctors pushed pills, Purdue’s profits were pushed to new heights.
Countrywide Financial was one of the largest mortgage lenders in the United States, but CEO Angelo Mozilo did not heed his own warnings in the lead-up to the 2007 financial crisis.
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 […]
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 […]
Attribution is giving credit where credit is due. Appropriation is the complex borrowing of ideas, images, symbols, sounds, and identity from others.
The relationship between laws and ethics is not always clear. Although we may have a legal right to do something, this does not necessarily mean it is ethically justified.
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 […]
The moral example set by leaders has a major impact on the behavior of their subordinates, both good and bad. Despite career success, leaders are particularly vulnerable to ethical lapses.
Moral action involves taking the necessary steps to transform the intent to do the right thing into reality. This includes moral ownership, moral efficacy, and moral courage.
Moral decision making is the ability to produce a reasonable and defensible answer to an ethical question.
Causing harm explores the different types of harm that may be caused to people or groups and the potential reasons we may have for justifying these harms.
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 […]
Guest blogger Tigran Eldred is an Associate Professor of Law at the New England School of Law in Boston. He has a distinguished background as a public defender and civil rights lawyer before he joined academia. However, our particular interest in his contribution relates to his interest in behavioral ethics as it applies to the […]
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 […]
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 […]
Behavioral Ethics investigates why people make the ethical (and unethical) decisions that they do in order to gain insights into how people can improve their ethical decision-making and behavior.
Fundamental attribution error describes how, when judging others’ actions, we tend to give too much causal weight to their character and not enough to the circumstances in which they acted.
By anticipating the typical reasons & rationalizations given for ethically questionable behavior, you are able to identify and prepare well-reasoned responses.
Normalization means expecting values conflicts so that you approach them calmly and competently. Over-reaction can limit your choices unnecessarily.
Abramoff’s version of moral equilibrium, which describes our tendency to keep a running scoreboard in our heads that compares our self-image as ethical people to our actual behavior.
Abramoff’s version of role morality, which is our tendency to use different moral standards as we play different “roles” in society.
Abramoff’s version of the self-serving bias, which causes us to see things in ways that support our best interests and our pre-existing beliefs.
Abramoff’s version of rationalizations, which are the excuses we make for not living up to our own, or society’s, ethical standards.
Abramoff’s version of framing, which describes how our judgments, including our ethical judgments, are affected just by how a situation is posed or viewed.
Featuring former lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff, this 25-minute documentary explores the biases and pressures he faced, and the consequences of his unethical decisions.
Framing describes how our responses to situations, including our ethical judgments, are impacted just by how those situations are posed or viewed.
Incentive gaming, or “gaming the system,” refers to when we figure out ways to increase our rewards for performance without actually improving our performance.
When we do something good we get to thinking of ourselves as pretty good people, and can then give ourselves license to fail to live up to our own ethical standards. This phenomenon is known as moral equilibrium.
The self-serving bias causes us to see things in ways that support our best interests and our pre-existing points of view.
When making ethical decisions, the one consideration that a theory favors over all other considerations is called the Fundamental Moral Unit.
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]