Business Ethics

May 6, 2011 • Volume 21, Issue 18
Can laws and behavior codes keep companies honest?
By Maryann Haggerty


Bernard Madoff (Getty Images/Mario Tama)
Swindler Bernard Madoff symbolizes today's concern about business ethics. The former chairman of the Nasdaq stock market is serving a 150-year prison sentence after admitting to defrauding investors of $65 billion. (Getty Images/Mario Tama)

Business experts and lawmakers are pushing for tougher ethics rules following scandals ranging from Bernard Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme to alleged corner-cutting before last year's Gulf oil spill and multimillion-dollar bonuses awarded to executives of failed Wall Street banks in the wake of the financial crisis. A recent Gallup Poll found that only 15 percent of Americans rate corporate executives high in honesty and ethical standards. Congress has sought to stem business misdeeds, most recently through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. But some conservatives complain that attempts to impose ethical standards on business can turn simple errors of judgment into criminal acts. Many big companies, including Google and outdoor-clothing retailer Patagonia, have ethics codes. But so did Enron, the Texas energy company that collapsed in 2001 in one of the biggest financial scandals in history.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Law Enforcement
Apr. 21, 2017  High-Tech Policing
Sep. 16, 2016  Jailing Debtors
Jun. 07, 2016  Crime and Police Conduct
Apr. 06, 2012  Police Misconduct
Oct. 14, 2011  Eyewitness Testimony
May 06, 2011  Business Ethics
Mar. 17, 2000  Policing the Police
Nov. 24, 1995  Police Corruption
Sep. 06, 1991  Police Brutality
Apr. 19, 1974  Police Innovation
Sep. 02, 1966  Police Reforms
Jan. 12, 1954  Federal Police Activity
Apr. 01, 1932  Proposed Expansions of Federal Police Activity
Investment and the Stock Market