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Week explores ethics of financial sector

Marisa Iati | Monday, February 13, 2012


The Mendoza College of Business (MCOB) is challenging members of the Notre Dame community to discuss the financial services industry and its role in the current economic crisis this week.

Notre Dame’s Ethics Week 2012, which began Monday and continues through Thursday, offers a series of lectures that examine the risk factors large firms face and how ethics come into play in the financial services industry. 

The talks take place each day at 12:30 p.m. in MCOB’s Giovanini Commons. 

Jessica McManus, professor of business ethics, said MCOB chose this year’s theme of “Failed versus ‘Fantastic’ Financial Institutions” because the way financial institutions operate affects consumers, investors and citizens.

“Mendoza has a strong tradition of looking at the ‘Ask More of Business’ framework, which involves individual integrity, organizational effectiveness and greater good at the macro level,” she said. “The financial services industry has relevance to all three areas.”

McManus said accountancy professor Ken Milani founded Ethics Week to honor the late John Houck, who was a professor of management. 

She said the event strives to take an in-depth look at ethical issues, giving students the opportunity to learn firsthand from people in the industry.  

“While we have a required ethics course [in MCOB], this is a way to learn from people in the field who are kind of on the front lines of these kinds of issue in the business world,” McManus said.

Brian Levey, professor of business law and ethics, said the financial services sector is particularly relevant to ethics studies because it goes through cycles of scandal and stability.

“Maybe regulation isn’t enough,” Levey said. “Maybe we need to focus on not only what’s lawful, but also on what the right thing to do is.” 

MCOB aims to offer a wide range of perspectives through the Ethics Week lectures, McManus said. Presenters include faculty members as well as practicing businesspeople. 

“Typically, we look at alumni because a lot of graduates of the University or friends of the University are people whose careers have taken them into these industries, but who also connect with the University and speak well with the students who are here,” she said. 

Levey said part of the goal of Ethics Week is to encourage people to discuss business ethics inside and outside the classroom.

“It’s not necessarily to present a single point of view, but to present a variety of different ways of looking at a problem,” he said.

Ethics Week presentations are purposefully designed to be more intimate than many academic lectures, and they provide an opportunity for attendees to ask questions, McManus said.  

“I hope that people will get a good sense of the current trends and the status of some of the decisions that are being made right now, [and] that people will come up with [an] up-to-date, relevant understanding of the financial services industry and the relationship of ethics and integrity to these questions,” she said.  

McManus said ethics is woven throughout MCOB’s undergraduate and graduate curriculums. The College focuses on creating human and social capital, as well as environmental innovation. 

“Ethics is part of our DNA at Mendoza,” she said. “I think that thanks in large part to the leadership of former Dean [Carolyn] Woo, we really have this sense of asking more of business.”