Sunday, May 17, 2009

Are Ethics and Profits Mutually Exclusive?

“The Darwinian concept of the survival of the fittest has been substituted by a philosophy of the survival of the slickest.”

This Martin Luther King, Jr. quote still rings true.
It is particularly evident when you look at the alleged Ponzi schemes that we read about every day. Many of these individuals show a remarkable knowledge of how the financial marketplace works and are skilled at gaining prestige, obtaining political influence, and escaping regulators’ wrath. They also seemingly have an innate and sharply developed ability to manipulate individuals and entities to their advantage.

The marketing of adjustable rates and balloon mortgages with little down and no real credit checks coupled with the packaging of these mortgages into investments promising high return is the best illustration of where this philosophy of the survival of the slickest is taking us.

Martin Luther King was ahead of his time as now many are seeing the truth of that quote. This awareness, the developing community concept derived from the Internet, and the fact that the Internet ensures the uncensored widespread and quick dissemination of information, discussion, and debate, signifies change is coming.

Many in all levels of society including a few CEOs, consultants, and professionals are sensing a new business model is imminent in which ethics and profits aren’t mutually exclusive and in fact, compatible and necessary for a changing marketplace. To get buy-in from all the necessary stakeholders, businesses, not-for-profits, groups, and communities on the Internet, codes of conduct and responsibilities will have to be developed. There will also have to be actual transparency and demonstrated delivery of win-win to all the stakeholders.

CPAs, often identified as the most trusted advisor of businesses and individuals, can be one of the prime catalysts for this seismic change. Many firms are perfectly positioned, especially these very successful regional firms that have been “walking the walk” for a number of years. They created infrastructures, procedures, and safeguards to maintain quality and still experience sustained growth. Their focus is long-term, and most importantly, there is understanding that trust is constantly earned, and although profits might be the result, ethical means can always be utilized and makes business sense.

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