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Industry Spotlight > Women in Wealth

Ethicist: Put Goals Before Profits

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NU Online News Service, March 18, 2:47 p.m.–New York

Business leaders run into trouble when they put the perpetuation of wealth over a clearly defined commercial objective, according to an ethics expert who spoke here last week.

“Counter to conventional wisdom, I want to suggest that while accumulating wealth is a goal, a company begs for trouble when it becomes the primary goal, for then there is no compass to use to check one’s direction,” Ronald Duska, a professor of ethics at The American College, said at an ethics awareness luncheon hosted by the New York chapter of the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters Society.

“Businesses do not exist to maximize profits,” Duska said. “They exist to provide goods and service to others.”

Duska’s speech drew analogies between the behavior of the characters from the best-selling books by J.K. Rowling and the Enron scandal.

Duska compared Enron to Harry Potter’s cousin Dudley, who, in one scene, receives 35 gifts for his birthday and becomes upset because the number is the same as the number he received the year before. Dudley wants one more gift.

“Think of Enron as Dudley,” Duska said. “Dudley is an accumulator: one who wants more and more for the sake of wanting more.”

Like Dudley, Enron’s executives lost their focus for their company, leading to its downfall, Duska said.

Maximizing profits should be the drive behind a business, but profits should not be the goal, Duska argued.


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