Business Ethics Insight: Promises of good behavior do not ensure an ethical society. Temptation often trumps our pledges to be good, and we turn to government for preemptive regulation and legal enforcement.

by Michael Josephson on February 16, 2012

This comment is contained in “Too Big to Regulate: Preventing Misconduct in the Private Sector 2010,” a report by the Ethics Resource Center. Among the report’s conclusions:

  • No amount of regulation or enforcement resources will eliminate all wrongdoing, but there is little doubt that government and business share an interest in ethical conduct that gives investors confidence in the market’s inherent integrity.
  • Despite natural tension between businesses and the government enforcement officers who prosecute corporate misconduct, partnership between government and private sector compliance officials can help build ethical cultures in the private sector and reduce errant behavior.
  • Ongoing dialogue between these sectors can provide government enforcement officers with a better understanding of how strong ethics programs can promote positive behavior in the private sector and discourage misconduct.
  • Better communication by government enforcers can help the private sector build compliance programs that will earn credit and respect from federal agencies and judges.

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