Wall Street Executives Believe Employees Need to Engage in Illegal Behavior to Succeed

Pat Garofalo
Think Progress / News Report
Published: Tuesday 10 July 2012
“Big banks, of course, have continued to fight reforms to the financial regulatory framework, even in the wake of the crash of 2008.”
Article image

British and U.S. authorities are both now investigating Barclays and other banks for manipulating the London InterBank Offered Rate, an interest rate that is a benchmark for a host of financial products around the world. Regulators charge that the banks rigged the interest rate’s movements in order to profit and to make themselves look healthier during the financial crisis of 2008 than they actually were.

This comes on the heels of JP Morgan losing billions of dollars chasing profits with trades that were meant to reduce risk, and, of course, is just a few years removed from a crisis caused in large part by Wall Street malfeasance. But according to a survey by the whistleblower law firm Labaton Sucharow, Wall Street executives believe this is just part of the financial business. In fact, nearly one quarter of survey respondents said that financial services employees need to be unethical or engage in illegal behavior in order to be successful:

In a survey of 500 senior executives in the United States and the UK, 26 percent of respondents said they had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace, while 24 percent said they believed financial services professionals may need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct to be successful.

Sixteen percent of respondents said they would commit insider trading if they could get away with it, according to Labaton Sucharow. And 30 percent said their compensation plans created pressure to compromise ethical standards or violate the law.

Big banks, of course, have continued to fight reforms to the financial regulatory framework, even in the wake of the crash of 2008. But if this survey is any indication, Wall Street needs a mentality change, along with stricter supervision.

Get Email Alerts from NationofChange
Author pic
ABOUT Pat Garofalo

Pat Garofalo is Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Pat’s work has also appeared in The Nation, U.S. News & World Report, The Guardian, the Washington Examiner, and In These Times. He has been a guest on MSNBC and Al-Jazeera television, as well as many radio shows. Pat graduated from Brandeis University, where he was the editor-in-chief of The Brandeis Hoot, Brandeis’ community newspaper, and worked for the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life.

Top Stories

15 comments on "Wall Street Executives Believe Employees Need to Engage in Illegal Behavior to Succeed"


July 12, 2012 12:44pm

"In a survey of 500 senior executives in the United States and the UK, 26 percent of respondents said they had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace,"

So in other words 74% of executives who have presumably been in the profession for years even decades have NEVER observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in their workplace. At a guess I'd say that's better than most government workers (and all cops). Note that the survey didn't ask what happened to the wrongdoers.

Of the 24 percent "believed financial services professionals may need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct to be successful." how many believed that illegal as opposed to unethical conduct may be necessary? Because I have zero problems with someone doing something illegal but not unethical and so should you.

Simiarly it doesn't say what sort of insider trading (a term so vague as to be meaningless and not necessarily indictive of bad behaviour) the respondents would do. In any case 5/6 of them say they wouldn't do it even if they could get away with it. Consider would 5/6 of your friends say no to hundreds of thousands of dollars, gained without violence and arguably hurting nobody?

It's significant that although practically all these executives had compensation schemes that richly reward success 7/10 of them didn't feel that pressured them to be dishonest. In other words despite having huge potential rewards they didn't feel that this was likely to tempt them to wrongdoing.

Basically the conclusions drawn from the figures are directly contradicted by them.


July 11, 2012 5:49pm

We seem to feel illegal wars are ok too and extraordinary powers are good for homeland security to use on us. Since there is really not that many terrorists they have lots of other normal things local and state police probably would love to have high tech help with. An building a lareg national databse of all the suspicious thing asnd people they just happen to encounter for any reason at all.as we become a military police state and banana world republic for rich multi-national corporate investors and their enablers.


July 10, 2012 5:48pm

I for one will vote for anyone other than the two parties that we have now wheres PAT Paulson when you need him. The two party system allows these kinds of injustice and it is escalating faster than global warming. Please dont vote for either Oscrotum or Shit Rum tummy just let them know by the vote how we believe this country is corupt and needs a colon cleansing. I n medevil times the scoundrels would hide in their castles but the banks and wallstreet are not so well fortified so I hope a solar flare goes up their ass.

uwe boll

July 10, 2012 1:08pm

hey ...i just shot the movie AGE OF GREED : The BAILOUT -..with Dominic Purcell in the lead. I hope that this webside will report about that movie soon and we maybe can get together the movie shown in USA.
uwe boll

Charles Thomas

July 10, 2012 12:45pm

Power will only change by force.


July 10, 2012 12:05pm

Prison or death to all Wall Street criminals.


July 10, 2012 11:47am

I believe we need to eat all Wall Street executives in order to reduce the population so that there is less competition for bottom food and more people can succeed.


July 10, 2012 11:21am

The USA and the world's income gap and social ills will never be solved without total sovereign banking being established. Privately owned central banks must be replaced by government owned national banks. It can be done easily--watch:



July 10, 2012 10:39am

And it's ALL the "regulators" fault. If they wouldn't keep trying to reign in capitalism with their ineffective, inadequate incompetent "regulations", everything would be wonderful in FreeMarketLand...

The birds would sing, the sky would be a wonderful shade of orange tinged with red and blue, children would be happily playing amongst the ruins of our cities and towns and the rich would be deliriously cavorting in their pleasure palaces under their safe, gated domes.

As Wall Streeters say, "We didn't do it and it's not our fault!"


July 10, 2012 10:33am

There is no simple answer, but we need to begin by rewarding honesty and fair dealing as the perferred mode of operation. Not just in business but in everyday affairs. Achieving ones goals by hook or by crook has to stop and it will only do so when it becomes socially unaccptable. The current climate of the economy and the tone of social discourse is not likely to lead to this outcome. Candidates for public office lie and deceive, distort the facts or make up whatever "fact" they need and the public buys into it. The media fails to expose the falsehoods and simply quotes the comments, taking no responsibility to inform the public of the truth. We have, at our fingertips, the means to learn the truth (Google, etc.) yet we fail to use it and accept the repeated lies as truth. Is it any wonder that the nation is in the state it's in?

Jeffrey Hill

July 10, 2012 10:26am

Crime PAYS on Wall Street and in Washington, DC.


July 10, 2012 11:25am

And, Jeffrey, with far fewer consequences than, say, robbing a convenience store. I look forward to the day that ethical people who have infiltrated the finance sector "out" their bosses...and we all watch those bosses hauled off to hard time prison. You know, like the consequences for the little people who commit crime.

Norman Allen's picture
Norman Allen

July 10, 2012 9:39am

With Bush and his Dick, the White House became the STREET, albeit, the gutter where strong preyed on the weak. Once the door to the gutter is opened by the rich and powerful, it will take a long time, if ever, to close it enough so the occupier of the White House can balance the hunters killings with the population replacement. We are on a downward spiral but the deciders seems to think we are still in the 19th century in a much changed world. Reliance of force is not the solution. It has become a major problem. The solution is in balancing guns and butter. For that we need intelligent representatives of the PEOPLE, not only of the CORPORATIONS.


July 10, 2012 10:43am

It's bipartisan...

You must include Clinton and his Summers...

Who became Obama's Larry Summers...

The crap is bipartisan...


July 10, 2012 11:48am

Agreed. - Signed, a progressive and Democrat.