Sagely wisdom on curbing corporate crime

By Dr. Henry Wong Meng Yeong | Thursday, January 16, 2014

Continuing our discussion on expectations, the importance of managing expectations of children is stressed as greed is best checked from a young age. When children grow up pampered taking everything they are provided with for granted, they will never be content with their lot resulting in unmet expectations.

China’s one child policy has served its purpose when the country faced famine and a lack of resources, but preserving the policy ad infinitum would present future problems. In line with President Xi’s social reforms, China has relaxed the one child policy. That should go some way in the prevention of brining up future generations of spoilt little emperors and empresses, with four grandparents and two parents doting on one precious child.

Confucius believes that it is important to nurture children with virtues and principles. In the absence of virtues, unmet expectations will tempt one to succumb to greed. The escalating reports of corporate fraud and crime only attests to the fact that stop gap measures such as sophisticated surveillance are ineffective in eliminating the problem. Nor does blaming others of being more corrupt, labeling corrupt practices as a foreign scourge exterminate the problem.

Here are some key observations of corporate crime fuelled by greed which inadvertently point to the effective keys for eradicating this rampant disease.

One would be mistaken to think that Confucius was opposed to wealth, as he was reported to have said that he would pursue wealth as long as it was obtained legitimately. One has to distinguish between the acquisition of wealth by honest means driven by ambition and hard work and ill-gained fortunes driven by greed and deceit. Elimination of corporate greed would require the nurturing of loyalty, trustworthiness, propriety, righteousness, incorruptibility and a sense of shame; six of the eight virtues which form the cornerstone of Confucian upbringing. A check list for bankers and executives according to Confucius would thus read: loyalty to the interests of the clients and not to serve one’s own interest; acting in a trustworthy manner; having a sense of right and wrong (propriety); the courage to put propriety into action (righteousness) and not to bring shame to oneself, one’s family friends, corporation or country one represents. These are the standards which Confucius expected of his disciples.

A point which is often overlooked is the fact that there is no correlation between wealth and honesty. Bankers and executives who have been indicted for corporate crimes were well paid and were in fact wealthy individuals. Greed is not dependent on how much one has but rather how much more one wants. It is therefore fallacy to think that by paying executives excessively it will prevent covetousness and dishonesty. Confucius preached the doctrine of moderation and managing expectations is the key. Confucius asserts that if one who is unprincipled is dissatisfied with poverty or what one deems as poverty, it is enough to drive one to insubordination. He also cautions his disciples not to work with people of little virtue, for when they are swayed by considerations of personal gain and losses will resort to every conceivable means to maintain their vested interest. The discussion continues…