Sunday 17th September, 2006


No short way to wealth

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They say that a fool and his money are soon parted, and most fools spend money merely to impress others. Perhaps it replaces some basic insecurities or it creates friends. There are even lyrics that say money talks, but financial planners say that those who splash money, tend to splash borrowed money, or money that has come too easy. In fact, a lot of big cars and fancy buildings are borrowed from banks and enough empires have crashed for us to learn.

But empires also crash because of poor business ethics, and manipulating loopholes in the system. Remember Enron in 2001? Its founder and former chairman, Ken Lay faced fraud and conspiracy charges, revolving around future contracts.

Of course he pleaded not guilty and shifted blame to the finance chief and junior managers. Then he died of a heart attack. But the finance boss had struck a bargain with prosecutors, for a lesser sentence, and the former chief executive now faces the brunt.

Legislators then scrambled to close the loopholes and fill the gaps, passing the Sarbanes-Oxley Law.

Unethical behaviour

But some wise person also said that illegal compliance is unlikely to unleash moral imagination or commitment. The law does not generally seek to inspire human excellence or distinction. Those managers who define ethics as legal compliance are “implicitly” endorsing a code of moral mediocrity for their organisations—Lynn Shape Paine.

It would seem then, that poor ethics are truthfully the fault of senior management. Hence legislation in the making should punish the practice of implied consent to unethical behaviour and managements implicitly endorsing bad actions.

The recognition is based in the differentials between business law and business ethics. Business law encompasses trade regulations, contractual obligations, non-discrimination, sexual harassment, quality control, taxation, etc.

What business law does not cover are things like waste control standards, verbal abuse, intimidation of the workforce and manipulative sales practices. These come under the banner of business ethics.

Bottomless pit

At best, those involved in the scandals and corporate mischief will eventually falter on a legal point and be disgraced by virtue of man-made law. At worst, they keep up the charade and keep shifting the blame, or ship out just before they are caught.

But sooner or later, they will be brought to book by the universal laws of justice. In the meantime the investors get ripped off. So you have to protect yourself.

There is no short way to wealth and financial freedom. There is only astute money management and discipline. You cannot succeed with cutbacks and under-the-table manoeuvres.

As a consumer, you will always have a choice of behaviour. If the man in front of you drops a blue dollar bill, will you pocket the bill, or pick it up and return it to him? Will you step on the one who is falling?

Will you do business with someone whose offer is too good to be true—an unethical offer?

Will you choose to do business with someone who is cheating someone else out of his bread and butter?

Darwin’s theory of evolution was never proven. The law of the jungle does not honour the high status of man, his morality, his sense of justice nor his quality of mercy.

The intermediary, the man in the middle is just as gullible as the customer. And will the customer help a man who is falling down, or will he push him further into the bottomless of pit?

So is the customer always right? And what is the song that money sings?

©2005-2006 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

Designed by: Randall Rajkumar-Maharaj · Updated daily by: Sheahan Farrell