“Our job as leaders is to give employees a purpose beyond just doing a job,” said Keith Darcy, executive director of the Ethics and Compliance Officer Association (ECOA) and recent speaker at the annual ILLINOIS Leighton Lecture on Ethics and Leadership, held on April 2, 2012. The talk was entitled, “Managing Organizational Integrity in an Age of Texts, Tweets and WikiLeaks.”
At first, Darcy’s point seems oddly to minimize the role of business leaders, but by the end of the talk his purpose becomes clear-to elevate leadership to a role whereby employees truly grasp and actively pursue the betterment of themselves, their employer and society.
To make his point, Darcy first spoke about extraordinary historic precedents and the rise of a sensitivity to culture and ethics.
Chronicling a “parade” of major foreign and domestic scandals of the past decade, Darcy took audience members on a walk through the historical context for the many decisions being made by regulators and legislators that ultimately impact company managers and the cultural environments that are shaping a generation.
Understandably, this veteran of the banking industry turned to economic insights. He spoke of the economic bubbles where enthusiasm and profits rise, peak, and ultimately burst in a recurring process he believes exposes “rot.”
Rot like the managers of Enron, the 7th largest U.S. company in 2001 who caused the second largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. Rot like the leadership at WorldCom who caused a subsequent bankruptcy in 2002 with a cost that eclipsed all other bankruptcies by a factor of three.
Darcy also spoke about the Tyco executive who used company money for his own personal gain, executives of Adelphia, the sixth largest cable operator, who took money from that company, and the dissolution of the Arthur Andersen accounting firm that cost 88,000 people their jobs.
In an impressive illustration of the gravity of regulatory settlements that came out of the related prosecution Darcy enumerated $1.7 billion paid by the Hospital Corporation of America, $1.64 billion paid by AIG, and billions more by several other organizations.
When Darcy spoke of the second economic bubble, “The Great Recession,” precipitated by the 9/11 attack, he made a case for what many believe was the near death of capitalism and the world economy. Quite literally, bad behavior by a relative few in leadership positions drove the world to the brink of economic collapse.
As truths about fraudulent bank loans, Ponzi schemes, and a laundry list of other billion dollar crimes meet with a growing effort to resolve and prevent future such crimes, Darcy points to culture as “the single biggest determinant of behavior in organizations and societies.”
Darcy noted culture as a significant contributor in every scandal and curiously as a frequently addressed component of settlement and reform efforts.
As Darcy moved past the historic scandals, the title of his talk, Managing Organizational Integrity in an Age of Texts, Tweets, and WikiLeaks, came into focus. He painted a bright future where culture around the world is changing to address a renewed interest in transparency and making public all sorts of illegal behavior. As business people and others seek to facilitate the disclosure of bad behavior, they are turning to internet and social media technology.
“The Twitter Revolution launched the Arab Spring