Conflicts of interest and behavioral ethics in the news: 031012

More on the Goldman Sachs/El Paso case: El Paso’s own lawyers had warned of conflicts, but the company rejected the advice (would love to know why) and a good overall analysis of what the case means:  “Goldman’s brazenness in this deal is nothing short of breathtaking. It is just another example of why Goldman’s reputation has been dented as questions have circled about the firm’s loyalty to its clients over itself. Other firms have conflicts, but rarely do you hear about them being so incestuous. A Morgan Stanley banker involved in the deal wrote in an e-mail at the time: ‘This is GS at its most shameless.’ What’s even more surprising about Goldman’s role working for El Paso is that it came just six months after the firm issued a new set of guidelines by its ‘business standards committee.’ The firm had just agreed to a $550 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over allegations that it knowingly sold its clients financial instruments meant to fail.” Note:  El Paso’s shareholders did approve the sale to Kinder Morgan this week (no surprise-  in the absence of a competing bid), but will now seek to show that the transaction was, in the words of the court, “tainted by disloyalty,” entitling them to damages. 

From the world of medicine: “the majority of U.S. medical schools have implemented strong conflict-of-interest policies this year, according to the 2011-2012 American Medical Student Association (AMSA) PharmFree Scorecard. Released today, the Scorecard finds that 102 of 152 medical schools (67%) now receive a grade of A or B for their policies governing pharmaceutical industry interaction with medical school faculty and students, compared with 79 last year.”  And, has a good roundup of recent stories about conflicts in the realms of science and medicine (lots of interesting stuff here).

And what ethicists can learn from scientists: a story about two experiments showing that a) individuals are much more likely to make ethical choices when they are not rushed and b) individuals are much more likely to make ethical choices when they are reminded right before the decision about ethical standards. In our ongoing  behavioral ethics series, we’ve written about similar findings – and what they could mean for  C&E programs  (specifically having to do, in the case of the first result, with risk assessment; and  in the case of the second, with the importance of “just-in-time” ethics communications).   Hopefully, these most recent findings will draw further attention to the ways in which behavioral ethics can improve C&E programs.




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