Corporate Ethics for Turbulent Markets
The Market Context of Executive Decisions
Table of contents(15 chapters)
The stable and predictable agricultural, infrastructure, manufacturing, and energy economies of hard products have been followed by economies that offer softer products such as services, information, knowledge, health care, digitization, networking, globalization, entertainment, sustainability, and currently, well-being and happiness. Such soft market products are loaded with buyer–seller information asymmetries (BSIA) that create market risk, market uncertainty, market chaos, and ambiguity – all of which are specific types of market turbulence. In this context, this chapter investigates the phenomena of turbulence, specifically environmental turbulence whose major subsets are technological turbulence and market turbulence. We cite several recent geopolitical variables and events that have aggravated market turbulence such as Chinese economic invasion of global markets, global climate change, Brexit, international asylum-seeking migrations, artificial intelligence, and demonetization. We also define market turbulence as varied forms of BSIA for which both marketers and consumers must have appropriate joint responsibility. In addition, we focus on ethical and moral marketing responsibilities for reducing BSIA under each type of turbulence.
This chapter covers basic concepts, ethical theories, and moral paradigms of corporate ethics for identifying, understanding, and responding to the turbulent market challenges of today. The concept, nature, and domain of ethics, business ethics, managerial ethics, and corporate executive ethics are defined and differentiated for their significance. The domain, scope, and nature of related concepts such as legality, ethicality, morality, and executive spirituality are distinguished and developed. Among normative and descriptive ethical theories that we briefly review and critique here are teleology or utilitarianism, deontology or existentialism, distributive justice, corrective justice, and ethics of malfeasance and beneficence. Other moral theories of ethics such as ethics of human dignity, ethics of cardinal virtues, ethics of trusting relations, ethics of stakeholder rights and duties, ethics of moral reasoning and judgment calls, ethics of executive and moral leadership, and ethics of social and moral responsibility will be treated in a later book. The thrust of this book is positive: despite our not very commendable track record in managing this planet and its resources, our basic questions are: Where are we now? What are we now? Where should we as corporations go, and why? What are the specific positive mandates and metrics to corporate executives to reach that desired destiny? This chapter explores responses to these strategic corporate questions.
A Systems Thinking Approach to Understand the Challenge of Corporate Ethics in the Turbulent Markets of Today
Morality is primarily a system of values, meanings, convictions, beliefs, principles, and drivers of good behavior and good outcomes in any organization. Using systems thinking concepts and applications introduced and developed during the last 50 years or so by various scholars from MIT, Stanford, and Wharton, such as Chris Argyris, Russell Ackoff, G. K. Forrester, Peter Senge, Stephen Covey, and Jim Collins, this chapter seeks to explore various past and contemporary market systems and challenges in terms of specific inputs, processes, and outputs. Systems thinking reckons everything in the cosmos (usually classified as subjects, objects, properties, and events) as a system (composed of two or more interactive parts with individual and interactive effects) that is connected to every other system in the universe. Various systems thinking laws and archetypes that have been developed thus far by systems thinkers will be introduced in order to identify basic patterns, structures, and constraints of human thinking and reasoning that create market phenomena. The academic and managerial challenge is to identify, explore, and capitalize such nonobvious connections for creating and developing new markets and corporate growth opportunities in the highly turbulent markets of today. In a globalized, digitized, and networked planet and universe, systems thinking is a very effective tool for analyzing turbulent market systems holistically and in an inclusive and integrated manner, with their specific inputs, processes, and outcomes. Several contemporary market cases will be included to illustrate the contents of this chapter.
The typical corporation is based on free capital markets, and in general, on the free market capital system for all its factors of production, distribution, and consumption. Hence, this chapter studies the economic, legal, ethical, and moral goodness and promise of the Free Enterprise Capitalist System (FECS) as it exists and thrives in the open and free economies of the world. We will review several versions of FECS starting from Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) views on private property, Thomas Hobbes’ (1588–1679), The Leviathan (1651), Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations, 1776), Max Weber (The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, 1904/1958) to modern defenses of capitalism by David Bollier (Aiming Higher, 1997), Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales (Saving Capitalism from Capitalists, 1998, 2004), C. K. Prahalad (2005) on Inclusive Capitalism, Nitesh Gor (The Dharma of Capitalism, 2012), and John Mackey and Raj Sisodia (Conscious Capitalism, 2014), to name a few. Based on these seminal authors and subsequent theoretical developments, this chapter seeks to defend, save, and uphold the goodness of the FECS along multiple viewpoints such as economics, management, law, ethics, morals, and executive spirituality.
The Destruction of Free Enterprise Capitalist System When Infected by Fraud, Corruption, and Bribery
When FECS spins out of human intervention and regulatory control, then it can easily harm and constrain the markets as it happened on Black Friday of October 1929, resulting in the Great Depression, and the September–October 2008 Financial Crisis, when some 17 mega global investment banks ran out of control and lost close to trillion US dollars in market capitalization. This chapter defines, analyzes, classifies, and morally assesses occupational and corporate fraud, corruption and money-laundering, and their other evil forms. When we allow our choices to be driven by passion, choosing thereby to ignore or fail to investigate outcomes, the results are too often flawed and unintended, as the cases of Lehman Brothers, AIG, Freddie Mac, and Fannie May that collapsed around September–October 2008 would attest. While we should condemn abuses within the FECS, one can also seek to understand the origins and originating systems of fraud, corruption, and various forms of deceptions and chicanery, and search for remedial strategies for eradicating these ills of FECS. Several contemporary market cases of fraud, corruption, and bribery will be identified to illustrate the contents of this chapter.
Before the September–October 2008 Financial Crisis, investment banks were hooked on debt. In 2007, a year before its failure, Lehman Brothers held equity just 3.3% of its balance sheet (that is, its debt/equity ratio well exceeded 29); virtually all the rest was financed by borrowing. Leverage is an elixir that makes profits soar when times are good but magnifies losses when the economy sours. Currently in India, several companies have seen their balance sheet out of shape because of overleverage, but banks continue to be benevolent, often forced by political interventions (see Cases 6.1 and 6.2). Most of these business groups are nearly dead, with their equity almost wiped out. There is little chance they will survive but for their banker’s largesse. Ever-greening of loans is keeping them alive, but what could be the end game? For instance, just a year before economic liberalization in India, few enterprising men invested in the steel business. They borrowed monies from the banks and banks continued to finance their operations, and now they are realizing that the promoters cannot meet with their debt obligations. The banks, however, did not want to accept financial loss and hence commonly agreed to ease the payment obligations so that the loans remained good and not degenerate to NPAs. This is tantamount to refinancing to service your loans. But now the banks overwhelmed with accumulated NPAs are trying to sell debt. How do you legally, ethically, morally, and spiritually (LEMS) justify share-market concentration in the hands of very few promoter investors? What are their long-run unintended economic, legal, ethical, and moral consequences, and why? This chapter studies this market turbulence and the role of bankruptcy laws and court systems in bringing about some change in the debt-overleveraged corporations.
Artificial Intelligence and the Emergent Turbulent Markets: New Challenges to Corporate Ethics Today
Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence displayed by machines, in contrast with the natural intelligence (NI) displayed by humans and other animals. It is also known as machine intelligence (MI) and is used because a machine mimics the cognitive functions that humans associate with human ability, such as logical reasoning, learning, and problem-solving. From Facebook’s automatic tagging suggestions to driverless cars, AI is rapidly progressing, and therefore, the ethical and moral question now is not whether AI should exist or not. AI exists and is already helping in improving various aspects of life such as health, safety, convenience, and overall standard of living. AI can replace or substitute routine mechanical, repetitive, boring jobs to free and unleash human creative and innovative talent to big thinking projects and humanizing work and society. AI can provide digital assistance in routine day-to-day tasks, detect cancer, diagnose rare diseases, and even prevent car crashes. AI can replace jobs, however, but not human work. Work as a duty, self-actualization and destiny will always continue, if not on the shop or office floors or boardrooms, at home, gardens, places of prayer and worship, and labs of creativity and innovation, in society and civilizations. While AI may indirectly free human talent for more meaningful and creative work, it can rarely participate in higher purposes such as creating bonding and belonging groups, in creating forgiving and compassionate communities, in drumming up small business, startups and corporations, and in harmonizing and humanizing this planet and cosmos for bliss or happiness. This chapter on AI, while investigating its market turbulence, will go beyond the legal aspects to ethical, moral, and spiritual dimensions and sacred opportunities of AI.
The over 125-year-old economic miracle called the Corporation is suddenly shaken in its foundations. The corporate business world is rapidly changing not only in the USA, but also across the globe. The front covers of business magazines and dailies, once dominated by names and faces of “Corporate Giants,” are now being replaced with success stories of great startups and small business entrepreneurs. The reasons for these radical changes progressively reveal the imperfections existing in the current corporation and the business boardroom paradigm. For over a century, huge corporate entities spawned by capitalism have established and entrenched themselves in their respective industry arenas and have since been ruling the world, dominating money, capital, cash, and market opportunity. Once they provided solutions to people’s employment and career needs, they have made a fortune for themselves thereby. In the course of their evolution, the businesses have transformed into corporations, seeking people’s money for doing business and, in turn, giving a share of proportionate ownership to the investor people in the form of dividends and capital gains. Such a brilliant method of raising capital has empowered the corporations to grow and expand beyond physical and political boundaries. Today, however, the corporations are run by the BOD, most of whom are representing gigantic promoter-investor institutions. That is, the main administrative role is now replaced by private equity firms and hedge funds that provide the required capital but who also exert undue pressures on CEOs to focus on short-term strategies that have massive profitability potential, thus defying the usual business management model and paradigm the CEOs were trained for in B-schools. The massive CEO exodus that has migrated from the traditional corporations to newly created startups and smaller business entrepreneurial ventures has also made the corporation an endangered species. In such a market turbulence, how do we redefine, redesign, and reinvent the morally embattled corporation? This chapter explores solutions.
Epilogue: The Twenty-first Century Legal, Ethical, Moral, and Spiritual (LEMS) Challenges of Corporate Governance
There is a rising interest in ethical, moral, and spiritual challenges and imperatives, accountabilities, and responsibilities in the corporation. Governance issues arise whenever a corporate entity assumes a life of its own, and the ownership of an enterprise is separated from its management. How could owners ensure that “professional managers” hired and delegated to run their companies would run the venture to protect owners’ interests? What is and should be the moral quality of the corporation that CEOs govern? What types of corporate governance, ownership, and control modes and models should CEOs adopt such that they ensure long-term objectives of all stakeholders of the corporation? These ethical questions are central issues in the world of corporations today battled as they are with various pressures from governments, Wall Street analysts, credit ratings agencies, banks and promoters, private equity and hedge funds, and hostile takeovers. Such questions will always be crucial when fiduciary rights and duties attached to investment and ownership cannot be applied directly. This is the context of today’s corporate governance that this Epilogue to Volume I explores.
- Publication date
- Book series
- Corporate Ethics for Turbulent Markets
- Series copyright holder
- Emerald Publishing Limited