Ethics. Values. Integrity.
Wall Street firms spend a lot of time using those catchwords when talking about developing the right culture. Bank chief executives often discuss how much effort they devote to instilling a sense of integrity at their institutions. The firms all have painstakingly written codes of conduct, boasting, “Our integrity and reputation depend on our ability to do the right thing, even when it’s not the easy thing,” as JPMorgan Chase’s says, or, “No financial incentive or opportunity — regardless of the bottom line — justifies a departure from our values,” as Goldman Sachs says.
And yet a new report on industry insiders about ethical conduct, to be released on Tuesday, disturbingly suggests that Wall Street’s high-minded words may largely still be lip service.
The problem is compounded by a trait shared by everyone, no matter their industry. “People predict that they will behave more ethically than they actually do,” according to a 2007 study led by Ann E. Tenbrunsel, a professor at Notre Dame. “They then believe they behaved ethically when they didn’t. It is no surprise, then, that most individuals erroneously believe they are more ethical than the majority of their peers.”
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