The decline and fall of business ethics – Fortune Magazine

The decline and fall of business ethics

Did we learn anything from the profit-at-any-price malaise that infected so many financiers during the 1980s?

Editor’s Note: Every week, Fortune.com publishes favorite stories from the Fortune magazine archives. This one was published in the December 8, 1986 issue — after Ivan Boesky’s fall but before Michael Milken’s indictment. It was the leveraged buyout heyday, when no one on Wall Street could be trusted. Today, with the hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam fighting insider trading charges in a Manhattan courtroom and one of Warren Buffett’s top executives, David Sokol, resigning under suspicions about his personal trades, the lessons from the 1980s still ring true. What makes seemingly smart businesspeople lose all sense of ethics in a fleeting moment? Myron Magnet speculates: “[W]hat pushes some insider traders over the line, beyond mere greed, is a more primitive wish to flirt with danger.”

The McCombs School of Business is producing a series of videos related to business ethics, trying to demonstrate some thought leadership on this issue. Via: http://twitter.com/ebertchicago

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