Jan Scruggs
Memorial founder

Jan Scruggs

Founder and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

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Ethics always matter

Q: Goldman Sachs, the country's most successful investment bank, is under fire for helping a hedge-fund tycoon dump bad investments on unsuspecting customers and then betting against them. CEO Lloyd Blankfein says the firm did everything it was legally required to. Are ethical issues relevant as a business seeks to earn money for its investors? Does the little guy stand a chance in such an environment?

There have been few performances in Washington more revolting than the Goldman Sachs executives testifying to Congress last week. They were smug and less than candid, spending more time employing delaying tactics in response to senators' questions than they did answering them. It was not difficult to understand how Sen. Levin began cursing like a sailor (he was, however, merely reading aloud their own e-mails).

And, sure, perhaps they did all they were legally required to do. Perhaps none of them will go to jail. Legally, they may pass some sort of minimal muster. But ethically, they had to know that what they were doing was fundamentally wrong. It seems as if some ethically challenged people certainly were able to rise right up the corporate ladder at Goldman Sachs.

Many investors are now buying their depressed stock. Personally, I don't have the stomach to do that.

Does the little guy have a chance? I certainly hope so, because these are the people in our society who do the most good, without always thinking of themselves first.

Consider, for instance, the T-shirt salesman -- who, by the way, is also a Vietnam vet -- in Times Square who not only warned police about the car full of explosives, but risked his own safety to check out the smoking vehicle first. When he saw that he could save some lives in Manhattan, he did his duty without hesitation.

I wonder how that T-shirt salesman did in the market in 2008? The executives at Goldman Sachs don't care. But they should.

By Jan Scruggs  |  May 3, 2010; 11:01 AM ET  | Category:  winners and losers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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