This short Reuters story has gotten little notice since it appeared on Tuesday July 10, 2012.
(Reuters) - If the ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes [left] were to go out with his lantern in search of an honest man today, a survey of Wall Street executives on workplace conduct suggests he might have to look elsewhere.
A quarter of Wall Street executives see wrongdoing as a key to success, according to a survey by whistleblower law firm Labaton Sucharow released on Tuesday.
In a survey of 500 senior executives in the United States and the UK, 26 percent of respondents said they had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace, while 24 percent said they believed financial services professionals may need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct to be successful.
Sixteen percent of respondents said they would commit insider trading if they could get away with it, according to Labaton Sucharow. And 30 percent said their compensation plans created pressure to compromise ethical standards or violate the law.
"When misconduct is common and accepted by financial services professionals, the integrity of our entire financial system is at risk," Jordan Thomas, partner and chair of Labaton Sucharow's whistleblower representation practice, said in a statement.
The survey's release comes as the fallout from Barclays PLC's Libor-rigging scandal continues and other banks including Citigroup Inc, HSBC Holdings PLC, Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC and UBS AG await the outcome of an industry-wide probe.
(Reporting By Lauren Tara LaCapra; Editing by Leslie Adler)
Jordan Thomas of Labaton Sucharow believes the integrity of the entire financial system is at risk.
I love it when people talk like this. For example, we might say that the Earth's ecological health is at risk. We might say that humans everywhere face enduring, significant challenges if they are going to succeed in turning this unhappy situation around. Let's translate this White-Man-Speak into more familiar phrases we can all understand.
- integrity at risk — the big banks have no integrity to speak of
- enduring, significant challenges — we're up shit creek without a paddle and every honest person knows it
The liberal economist, the man who firmly believes in Human Progress, will tell you that people respond to incentives. He will then tell you that the wrong incentives are in place. If he is Thinking Big, he'll say that the implicit guarantee that the government will always bail out the Big Banks if they get in trouble is not the kind of incentive we should have in place. This rule encourages the banks to gamble with other people's money.
Unfortunately for the progressive economist, the banks own (or rent) the people who make the rules and thus define the incentives which guide them. This is where his otherwise persuasive argument falls short.
Bankers also respond to strong dis-incentives, and will alter their behavior if those rules are enforced. For example, fraud and inordinate risk-taking on Wall Street would all but disappear if We The People carried out a few televised public executions, making sure to precede them with lots of very painful torture.
However, the liberal economist would be upset by the uncivilized lengths we might go to to discourage further rip-offs of American citizens. He believes in the rule of law and due process. Unfortunately, once again, these civilized procedures do not apply to Wall Street bankers, who own (or rent) the people who might bring them to swift justice.
Diogenes of Sinope, also known as Diogenes the Cynic, lived in 4th century B.C.E. and died in Corinth in 323.
Diogenes is especially scornful of sophisms. He disproves an argument that a person has horns by touching his forehead, and in a similar manner, counters the claim that there is no such thing as motion by walking around...
Diogenes’ talent for undercutting social and religious conventions and subverting political power can tempt readers into viewing his position as merely negative. This would, however, be a mistake. Diogenes is clearly contentious, but he is so for the sake of promoting reason and virtue. In the end, for a human to be in accord with nature is to be rational, for it is in the nature of a human being to act in accord with reason.
[My note: I'm afraid Diogenes has got this last part exactly backwards. Otherwise we are in complete agreement.]
Diogenes has trouble finding such humans, and expresses his sentiments regarding his difficulty theatrically. He is reported to have lit a lamp in broad daylight and said, as he went about—
I am searching for a human being
(Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Book 6, Chapter 41).
So am I, Diogenes, so am I.