Here’s something every bit as troubling as a looming market crash: A new study commissioned by Ernst & Young found that 15 percent of 1,758 high-level managers from across the world think that an economic downturn is enough justification for using immoral and misleading business practices, a rise from 9 percent in 2010. Apparently almost one sixth of all high-level businessmen say that bribing clients and willfully misstating financial statements are valid forms of business in the name of recession survival.More appalling are the responses from the CFOs included in the study: 47 percent of the 400 CFOs surveyed agreed that bribery and lying were sometimes necessary. Certainly these results are “a cause for alarm,” as the survey concluded. These are the men and women in full charge of a company’s financial reporting and strategic planning, and half of them are content to grow their company by immoral means.Liberty depends upon virtue. Without strong personal ethics (which usually, though not invariably, are cultivated by faith in God) free markets crumble and free societies do not stay free. Unethical business puts companies at risk of collapse by legal means, if caught, and by the crushing weight of economic reality otherwise. It goads young businessmen into joining that culture if it remains widespread and unchecked.Education needs to reconnect with both religion and morality, and tolerance of unethical personal and business behavior among the rich and the powerful needs to be recognized for what it is: a deadly threat to all we hold most dear. Helping your child cheat on the SAT to increase their chances of admission to a prestigious college, for example, goes against all of the business virtues that reward hard work and keep markets free and competitive within ethical bounds. The same principle holds true when CFOs hand out bribes to boost their company’s profits, or falsify financial statements to boost share price. This needs to change.
Desperate Times, Unethical Measures