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The convergence of doing well and doing good

| Monday, April 4, 2016

Professor Ackermann’s lecture Tuesday evening concluded a series on personal finance, in which the celebrated educator deftly guided students through a secure investment plan. The Mendoza Student Leadership Association graciously organized and sponsored the series, working with Professor Ackermann to provide informational presentations targeted to graduating seniors. Throughout the series, the corporate finance faculty member reflected on what he hopes ND students’ good investment habits will allow in the future: the devotion of their time to “worthwhile causes” in an effort to do good and the realization of “immense satisfaction” in the process.

While Professor Ackermann’s intentions were clearly well-intentioned, his didactic lectures did not include any advice on the ethical implications of investment responsibility. While he spoke quite briefly, the trained specialist should have nonetheless taken a few minutes to explain investment responsibility, because our ability to do “good” in the world through our finances hinges enormously on our recognition of this responsibility, not just our future service or charity.

Through macroeconomics courses, economics students and business students like myself come to consider money as another medium of democracy. That is, each dollar we invest and spend represents a vote toward a company’s success and continued operations, and consequently, each investor and consumer contributes to business activity each time they invest or purchase. Every dollar held, then, accompanies a responsibility for the determination of a global future, which includes our environment and social futures, not just the economic.

When we invest our money casually — with limited recognition of this responsibility, which may be the case in Ackermann’s recommendation of mutual stock indices — we miss an immensely significant opportunity to affect the kind of future we ourselves hope to see in the world. Sometimes it may feel like executives on Wall Street have all the power, and it is disheartening when they take advantage of that power to a negative effect, but we give them that power. Similar to the government, which owns nothing and can only spend tax dollars, Wall Street only owns that which we give it.

Classmates, faculty and staff, I challenge you with this thought: If you would watch a debate to discern a political candidate’s character before voting, shouldn’t you also learn about a company’s character before investing?

And classmates, if you want to affect positive growth and change in the world, major in business. Or better yet, “ask more of business” by acting upon your responsibility as an investor. You have the power to affect the future now, so that, when you retire, the world may already be a better place.

Kathryn Dennee
March 30

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Johnny Whichard

    Did you really just use Professor Ackerman’s head as your soapbox? Jerk!

    • Kathryn Dennee

      It may seem that way, Johnny, but this letter was honestly intended as a humble addendum to his talks. If he had had more time to lecture, he may very well have spoken on this topic himself. I only hoped to fill a gap with knowledge that I myself owe completely to other business professors here at ND.

  • MC

    What kind of businesses do you envision not wanting to invest in for ethical reasons? I’m sure people wouldn’t invest in something they had a strong moral aversion to

    • Kathryn Dennee

      MC, in the lectures, Professor recommended broad stock indices as a blanket solution to retirement investment; he recommended two specific indices to help everyone in the room. these indices include hundreds of companies that investors may know little or nothing about when they choose to pay for their share of such an index. There could be any variety of environmental, social, or even economic facets in the included companies that are discontinuous with any given investors ethics or expectations of business.