AC AC Alert for October 3, 2011 Hey, You Never Know! AC AC Alert for October 3, 2011 Hey, You Never Know!

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AC Alert for October 3, 2011 Hey, You Never Know! #Sustainability #ESG #Accountability #CSR
Friday, October 7, 2011 - 2:00pm

Ethics: Webster's defines ethics as "the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation." In the fishbowl world we live in today, where transparency has become the norm rather than the exception, "ethics" plays a huge role in both our personal and business lives.

We were reminded of that recently as we read Ariel Kaminer's comments about ethics and the lottery in the New York Times. A reader had noted that many state lotteries continue to sell scratch-off lottery tickets regardless of whether the winning tickets have already been claimed. He asked if a state was within its ethical purview to continue selling those tickets on the false premise that a $1 million payout is attainable.

"Charging money for something that's not really worth anything sounds so obviously unethical that there's almost nothing to discuss" said Kaminer. "But in a lottery, it's the premise of the game: a few of those scratch-off tickets are worth big money, the rest are just pieces of cardboard, and there's no way to sort it out until you purchase them. You do so knowing that the winning stub is likely to turn up in someone else's hands. There is no guarantee, nor any reason to assume, that it has not already done so.

Scratch-off tickets are printed in bulk, then shipped to vendors around the state. The order in which people then buy them is just an accident of distribution, not something lottery officials can control. Even if lottery officials wanted to halt sales at the exact moment a winning ticket was claimed, they probably couldn't — not when tickets are sold in such a wide array of unaffiliated venues, from big modern supermarkets to tiny curbside newsstands.

In light of that, Michal Ann Strahilevitz, a professor at Golden Gate University who studies how emotions affect consumer decision-making, gives the process an 'ethical enough to continue' stamp. "But what about the ethics of lotteries as a whole? The primary function of lotteries isn't to entertain people; it's to generate revenue for state government. That is a worthwhile cause; state governments need revenues, now especially. But selling people a turn at a losing game is not an ethical way to pursue it." (Source: New York Times)

As we said, ethics can influence virtually every aspect of our lives! Something new? Not at all. The Greek philosopher Aristotle taught the world some 24 centuries ago that ethics were very important for leaders to have and to demonstrate if they want to succeed in shaping public opinion. Individual and collective ethos or ethics is at the heart of who we are and what we stand for.  Aristotle perfected his principles of rhetoric "effective political speech" and taught his students the power of rhetoric, which he explained was one of the foundation stones of emerging western democracy. The Greek phrase ethos traveled on through the centuries into the languages of western civilizations to become "ethics" in modern times.

But what are appropriate ethics / ethical behaviors for the 21st Century "personal, business, social, governmental, political, financial; in global trade; between investors and issuers? A growing number of investors, their professional advisors, portfolio managers, corporate governance advocates, and social investors believe that corporate performance is closely linked to strong ethical commitment."

Here at AC we place a tremendous emphasis on ethics and accountability. A special section on Ethics contained in our Social Issues and Concerns Category is filled with news and commentary, updated on a daily basis. Here are some of our most recent excerpts:

Exclusive: Justice Department probing Chinese accounting
(Source: Reuters) The Justice Department is investigating accounting irregularities at Chinese companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges. SEC officials suggest that criminal charges may be brought in addition to civil proceedings.

Study: Tobacco firms' own research showed dangers
(Source: USA Today) Tobacco companies knew for decades that cigarette smoke was radioactive and potentially carcinogenic but kept that information from the public, according to a new UCLA study.

Madoff ruling a big win for Mets owners
(Source: Market Watch) A ruling in one of the highest-profile court cases relating to the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme has handed a big boost to the financially embattled New York Mets. The trustee for Madoff's securities firm was seeking up to $1 billion from Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, but a judge threw out all but two claims against the men, greatly reducing the sum for which they may be responsible.

S. &P. Target of Inquiry in Securities
(Source: New York Times) The ratings agency Standard & Poor's is under investigation for a complex mortgage security called Delphinus that was issued in 2007 just as the housing market began to collapse. If the investigation leads to a case against S.& P., it would be the first federal case against a ratings company for its work evaluating the mortgage securities that toppled the nation's financial system.

Pope: Italy needs an ethical 'renewal'
(Source: UK Telegraph)I n a telegram to Giorgio Napolitano, the Italian president, Pope Benedict XVI said he wanted to see "an evermore intense ethical renewal for the good of beloved Italy".

Ethics @ Work: Prohibition and drug use – another hangover?
(Source: Jerusalem Post) A Prestigious international commission is recommending an end to the war on drugs as we know it. The commission, former US secretary of state George Schultz, specifically recommends ending the criminalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.

MBA Programs Show Increased Emphasis on Business Ethics
(Source: US News) In the wake of the recent recession, the instructors of many masters of business administration (MBA) degree programs are emphasizing ethics and the importance of treating employees and the public fairly.

The mission of Accountability Central is to be the clearinghouse for news, intelligence, insight, perspective, opinion, and advice on activities now being grouped under the umbrella of "accountability."  These certainly include ethics. At the end of the day, it is our hope that the information contained here will help individuals running corporations, public sector agencies and social sector organizations to do the right thing for the right reasons!  We hope our contributions will help leaders in all sectors know more about ethics and accountability in all its dimensions.

This is just a sampling of the information in our Alert. Go here for the full text of this alert, and more information on Sustainability, and other Accountability related topics.