Legal is a low standard. Lets aim for ethical.

Most organizations have a policy that states they intend to comply with all laws and regulations. If your organization does not have this policy then you should consider adopting it. And it is a good personal policy as well.

However, not breaking any laws is a pretty low standard for behavior. Here is an example – some multinational companies set up their operations in a low tax jurisdiction and record all of their sales there. This is apparently legal but no one could argue that it is ethical for a corporation to pay no taxes to any country on planet earth!

As perceptions change about this issue, large corporations are going to be criticized for their tax reporting strategies. Their defense is going to be that it was legal and everyone else was doing it. They will say that a company could lose its competitive advantage if it is the only corporation that is paying tax. Wells Fargo is another example; employees went along with setting up false credit card accounts because everyone was doing it. Now that the scam has come to light all of those employees are perceived as being guilty and are asked why did you agree to do something you knew was wrong?

Let’s come back to the concept of changing perceptions. In the 70’s people smoked everywhere. During my university days many classrooms had a haze of cigarette smoke between me and the professor. The professors often were smokers. By today’s standards this is inconceivable, yet no one complained.


At the board room table and the kitchen table, wouldn’t it be great if we considered whether our behaviour was ethical and not just whether what we want to do is legal. As perceptions change behaviour is cast in a different light.

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Painless Financial Training Group Inc. with Debi Peverill

Understand Financial Stuff, Painlessly