Earlier this week, I received a call from a sergeant in our local police department. He didn't leave a specific message, although he said he was from the narcotics division and asked me to call him back. Last August 2008, I had parked my car in front of our home in a nice neighborhood in San Francisco. When I went outside, the whole front of my car was gone. The hood, bumpers, and half of my engine. Needless to say, I was angry and shocked. I eagerly called the sergeant back, thinking that they had caught the criminals who had destroyed my car.
Most professionals -- doctors, lawyers, dentists, and psychologists - are regulated by a written code of ethics. These standards dictate minimum, not optimal standards for purely ethical behavior. For example, even though an attorney can represent both a husband and wife in drafting a marital settlement agreement, a highly ethical attorney would not consider this course of action because it is not in the best interest of both parties. Even with strong rules of conduct, there are always gray areas and professionals often have to make hard choices.
In the past week, I have been repulsed by news of one of the biggest scams of all time. Bernard Madoff, head of Bernard L. Madoff Securities, allegedly conned scores of wealthy investors, lulled by promises of higher than average yearly returns. Madoff was the CEO of a company with over 200 employees. We don't yet have all of the facts. However, what is remarkable to me is that so many, including Madoff employees, did not question consistent financial returns that defy explanation. How could so many allegedly smart people believe that there are special algorithms that are immune from market forces? And how could so many ignore the red flags of a leader who became gruff and angry when questioned about his strategies?
Today's Wall Street Journal headline story outlines the case of Illinois Governor Rod. R. Blagojovich . The chief executive of the state of Illinois was arrested today for attempting to sell President-elect Obama's Illinois Senate seat. He was also charged with conspiring to bribe others and committing mail and wire fraud. Federal authorities also allege that the governor attempted to bribe the head of Children's Memorial Hospital in exchange for state funding. Further, the FBI alleges that the governor wanted Chicago Tribune reporters who were critical of him to be removed in exchange for a speedier sale of Wrigley Field.