Accountability. The lack of accountability in our society today is overwhelming and overabundant. At the citizen/personal level, I would *like* to think that most people do feel responsible for all other people in the world, and this is what keeps us progressing as a human race. Enforcing this is impossible though and any attempt to do so is futile; thus we have governments that attempt to accomplish this on behalf of those who just don’t care. However, at the corporate level, accountability not only can be enforced but absolutely needs to be.
Regardless of the regulations passed in the past decade, corporate finance accountability is a complete joke. The only meaningful piece of legislation to pass through the system is the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, which was the reaction following the Enron scandal (and a few others). In terms of corporate accountability, the only positive thing to come out of it is the protection of whistle-blowers from within a company. While I agree that this is an important piece of the puzzle, it is only one piece in a 1000 piece puzzle.
Lets make one thing clear: corporations, for the most part, are unethical. This should not come as a surprise to any of you. Most corporations try and hide this fact by creating these mandatory ethics training classes once a year where there is a test at the end, and everyone is forced to pass and the shareholders’ mind can be put at ease because all employees now know what ethics are. This is bullshit, and everyone knows it.
Corporations are unethical because being unethical is profitable. Since it is a corporations sole purpose in existence to be profitable, then it must do whatever it can to survive. This, interestingly enough, sounds a lot like human beings and Darwins “survival of the fittest”. Well, lucky for us that the Supreme Court also feels this way, as per the Citizens United case which declares corporations are indeed citizens. Therefore, by the logic of the Supreme Court, human beings must also be unethical.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, this analysis is totally stupid: a person that commits an unethical act does not make them an unethical person and the same goes for corporations. I would say it’s more of a percentage game. People are 30% unethical and 70% ethical, and corporations are 70% unethical and 30% ethical, on average (these number completely made up, but sound good.) Based on this, I would argue that people are mostly ethical (exceptions apply) and corporations are mostly unethical (again, exceptions), therefore corporations are not people.
I realize I got a little side-tracked with the whole Citizens United case (I know, old news now) but that needed to be said for the setup here. If corporations are going to be considered people, then it’s time they start being treated as a single person. If one person within an organization makes an unlawful (unethical) move, then everyone around that person needs to be held accountable. Corporate finance departments that handle taxes used to be organized this way, but was repealed during the 1990’s “the IRS is evil” period. In an en environment where ones actions are held accountable by an entire department, group, or company, you’d be surprised how fast companies can start to self govern themselves in an ethical manner. With accountability on the decline we can just expect companies now, more than ever, to continue sacrificing its lambs for the “greater” good of the company, simply because it can.