Business Ethics Focus on Merrill Lynch According Essay

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Business Ethics Focus on Merrill Lynch

According to Laura Hartman and her co-writer, Joe Desjardins in the work entitled "Business Ethics: Decision Making for Personal Integrity & Social Responsibility" philosophical ethics may be clearly differentiated from theological ethics because theological ethics attempted to disseminate the well-being of an individual on a religious basis while the ethics of an individual's philosophy is such that provisions of justifications that can be applied to all people regardless of their religious starting points. (paraphrased) In other words, there is always a reason for doing the ethical thing in business from a philosophical view without religion even having to enter into the discussion because ethics in business are rational, honest and in the end more profitable to all stakeholders in terms of the ROI or return on investment.

It is certain that individuals such as Bernie Madoff and those at the helm of companies such as Merrill Lynch and others who fell from public grace due to unethical practices in banking business. This study asks the question of what it is that makes a difference in whether ethical decisions are those made in business dealings. Is it one's spirituality, religiosity, regimen, creed, protocol..or any such thing, that when, collectively applied result in a decision based on ethics? It is certain that some shared rationality of that which is inherently ethical exists. Likewise, it would appear rationale that inherently in each individual is a rational knowing when something is inherently unethical. Ethics are a standard for living that are agreed upon proper and equitable behaviors in business dealings. These are the golden standard and have been for all of recorded history on earth. Ethics are not ethnic, race, or gender rooted in nature because ethics apply across the board giving each individual, company, or stakeholder a viable business proposition or deal that could prove to be lucrative but at least is based in providing truthful information so that one can enter into faulty dealings at their own risk, and there are those who prefer it to be risky.

The issue of leadership in the world of business ethics is addressed in the work of Claudia Parsons entitled "From Madoff to Merrill Lynch, 'Where was ethics officer?' (2009) which states "Lax lending standards left banks with too many souring loans and insufficient capital, contributing to the collapse of long-established Wall Street names like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and prompting a $700 billion U.S. bank bailout. Millions of ordinary Americans have seen their retirement savings hammered and hundreds of thousands have lost jobs." (Parsons, 2009, p.1) Parsons relates that these events should serve to "inspire companies to embrace the need for sound ethical practices, but experts in business ethics say that not all companies received the message." (2009, p.1)

Parsons shares the statement of Roy Snell, chief executive of the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics who relates as follows: "I don't think seeing dead bodies in the street always wakes people up, I've watched this for 13 years. There are always people rationalizing it, saying 'Our people wouldn't do that.'" (2009, p.1) Marjorie Kelly writes in the work entitled Next Step for CSR Economic Democracy" that she would have marked the Prudential scandal in the 1980s as the 'Most Fascinating Scandal' were it not for the gold standard scandals in the 1980s when Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken were hauled away in handcuffs for junk bond fraud, insider trading and stock parking." (Journal of Business Ethics, 2002, p.1)

What was shocking in the 1980s, including "hostile takeovers, massive layoffs, and exorbitant CEO pay -- became ordinary stuff in the 1990s." (Kelly, 2002, p.1) What was lacking in all of these situations was not government laws and regulations but instead accountability within the organizations. Accountability on both the personal and collective level of individuals within the organization serves to keep ethics in place and working. Ethics education and training is required in today's organizations more than ever as it appears that business has become desensitized to unethical behavior.

II. What kind of organization would one like to work for? What would be the best organization and the most realistic.

The type of organization that any individual would like to work for is one that promotes ethics, equity, fair chances for promotion, a clean physical environment and a company that has open lines of communication. The
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optimal organization is one that treats employees fairly, that uses ethics in recruiting and promoting employees and that is accountable within the organization and to the community as well. Contributions to the community might mean that employees receive less in pay however, the community contributions will result in a longer staying power of the organization and this means job security for the organization's employees.

III. How Should the Decision-Making Process Be Handled?

The intrinsic values of the individuals in the organization should be considered just as closely as extrinsic values. This requires that the corporation invest in the 'social capital' of the organization. The concept of 'social capital' is such according to the OECD that "became fashionable only relatively recently" however the term has been used for nearly one-hundred years and the ideas behind social capital have an even longer history. Social capital was defined by writer Lyda Hanifan as "those tangible assets [that] count for most in the daily lives of people: namely goodwill, fellowship, sympathy, and social intercourse" among the individuals that form a social unit.(OECD, nd, p.102)

Social capital can be divided into three primary categories: (1) Bonds or links to people on the bases of common identity; (2) Bridges or links that reach beyond a shared sense of identity; and (3) Linkages or links to people or groups "further up or lower down the social ladder." (OECD, nd, p.103) The OECD definition for social capital is "networks together with shared norms, values, and understandings that facilitate cooperation within or among groups." (OECD, nd, p.104) The OECD states that this is networks which are "real-world links between groups or individuals." (nd, p.104) Norms are stated to be the definition that sociologists apply to "society's unspoken and largely unquestioned rules." (OECD, nd, p.104) Social capital is that which "provides the glue which facilitates cooperation, exchange and innovation." (OECD, nd, p.104)

Within the realm of social capital application in the organization is what is known as the 'participative decision-making processes' or PDM, which is reported as such that affects several disciplines including management, public administration, non-profit organizations, health, education, etc." (Floris, 2012, p.1) Participative decision-making processes are reported to include the macro-categories of: (1) individual and (2) organizational factors. (Floris, 2012, p.1) Included in the individual factors are knowledge and motivation. Knowledge in that "PDM is effective when participations are aware that their contributions are relevant, making it necessary to create and spread knowledge, expertise and skills and motivation in that when individuals are involved in PDM "their level of motivation tends to increase an effort to demonstrate ability, skills, and commitment." (Floris, 2012, p.1) Organizational factors include task attributes, group characteristics, leader attributes, and other organizational factors. PDM is reported to operate in tandem with social capital in that they "operate in a positive feedback loop." (Floris, 2012, p.1)

Social Capital and the Participative Decision-Making process present a strategic framework for decision-making processes in the organization that includes consideration of both intrinsic and extrinsic values and motivations. The value of individual worth considers many factors that cannot be measured on a financial level alone. Therefore, social capital theory offers a more accurate measure of the worth of individuals in the corporation because social capital includes all aspects of the value that can be assigned to an individual in the organization when attempting to place value on the individual employee. Included in the value consideration within the framework of social capital theory are all the contributions that the individual makes to the organization. For example, is the individual involved in the community, does the individual contribute their time to social causes and do they volunteer to assist with community initiatives? Does the individual contribute their own free time to assist others in the organization better learn their job or become more proficient in their work? Other questions that must be considered when placing value on individual employees include whether the individual attends continuing education classes at their own expense that results in their being more professional or better at their job and does the individual go above and beyond their duties to ensure the organization's future success?

IV. The Ford Pinto and Hazards of Considering Only the Instrumental Value of Life

In 1968, the Ford Motor Company was faced with a dilemma. The Pinto had been engineered with a rear tank assembly and it was discovered that during collision that the rear-end tank was very likely to explode. The Ford Motor Company made a decision to allow the Pinto to remain on the market on the basis that it would be more costly to conduct a recall than to pay the…

Sources Used in Documents:


Fact Sheet 16: Employment Background Checks: A Jobseeker's Guide. (2013) Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Retrieved from:

Floris, M. (2013) Engaging Social Capital Through Participative Decision-Making Processes. Retrieved from: SSRN: or

Hartman, L. And DesJardins, J. (2011) Business Ethics: Decision-Making for Personal Integrity & Social Responsibility. 2nd Ed. McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Kelly, M. (2013) The Economy Under New Ownership. Retrieved from:

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