Greed was at the forefront of a March 28 panel discussion regarding the implications of the Enron scandal and its importance to society. The panel, presented by the Business Ethics Program, in conjunction with the Office of Alumni Relations, featured professors Robert E. Rosen of the School of Law and William B. Werther of the School of Business Administration.
Rosen argued that there is a culture of greed, exemplified by what happened with Enron, is occurring throughout the country.
He added that it is perpetuating itself in society due to peer pressure, such as when values from childhood are replaced as pressure to make more money and be more profitable grows.
To illustrate the way these problems occur, Rosen compared the Enron scandal to the UNICCO situation on campus. The University of Miami, he implied, is acting similarly immoral and putting money first.
“We take for granted that people who work and clean on campus will get no health benefits, insurance or even enough money to pay bills,” Rosen said. His message is that as a society, even as small a one as a college campus, everyone is guilty of contributing to the replacement of moral values with economic values.
“Don’t be angry with [Jeffrey] Skilling or Ken Lay [Enron former CEOs], be angry with the government for allowing the situation to happen,” Werther said.
The government, he said, has a responsibility to safeguard the public from corporate ethics violations. According to Werther, the government should have monitored the company’s reports to help prevent the situation from growing into such a large problem.
Werther felt that employees were also responsible for not standing up for their moral values in the UNICCO debate. Everyone still has personal responsibility, he said, but the government should be a check to help ensure that morality is protected and in this case the government failed.
“The government was culpable because there was not enough enforcement of laws, probably due to money and the government was too sensitive to political winds,” Werther said. He also alluded to the close ties between Enron and the Bush administration.
The documentary film Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room, which details the scandal, was screened prior to the panel discussion.
Several business students who watched the film and stayed for the panel said it helped them to better understand of the scandal and its meaning.
Charles Carr, a second year MBA student, said afterwards he felt Weather’s argument very powerful and also weighed in on the Enron scandal.
“The system of checks and balances did not work and unfortunately, while the whole group should be prosecuted, a large part will never be punished,” Carr said.
Betsy Earle, also a second year MBA student and founder of the UM American Marketing Association, thought the story had a very important personal message for everyone.
“It brings to attention that a lot of people just believe what they hear and don’t take into account their own perspective,” Earle said. “The people were convinced of things they should’ve questioned.”
The panel created a sense that ethics today is held together by a balance of personal and governmental responsibility in which both aspects are equally essential.
Candice Castaneda can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org