Bernie Madoff recently said (from prison where he is serving a 150-year prison sentence), "Everyone was greedy. I just went along. It’s not an excuse." Breaking the rules has always been taboo but when a business does it, it is assumed that they have always done it. Then the question arises as to whether any of the businesses success is warranted.
There is a line that should never be crossed and there are those who believe that a business can step back and forth over that line with out consequence. Eventually these people get caught but only after damaging customers, employees, family members and themselves. The consequences for a business that crosses that ethical line are often irreversible.
How do we know where that line is? It is really quite simple, follow the Golden Rule and it is pretty hard to go wrong. Simply put, "Do to others what you would like done to you". A business that treats their customers and staff the way they would like to be treated is unlikely to ever cross any ethical lines. We can ask ourselves one question, "Would we do it when someone else is watching"? If the answer is no then don't do it when there isn't an audience either.
The court-appointed trustee for the Bernie Madoff case estimated actual losses to investors of $18 billion dollars. "I made a lot of money for my clients", Bernie Madoff stated during a recent prison interview. No matter how many honest people are in an industry it only takes one person to taint the public perception of an entire trade. Bernie Madoff famously asked the question, "Am I a flawed character"? Someone once said, "Character is doing the right thing even when no one is looking", by that standard Bernie, the answer is a resounding yes!