“Unions are not unique. . . . You can’t train people to be ethical. It’s just access to money.”

Professor Peter Henning, Wayne State University and former federal prosecutor. The Barometer realizes that prosecutors develop a certain cynicism over the years. However, the good professor is just wrong. Even if we accept his premise that you cannot train people to be ethical, we can deny the second part — the access to money.

Unions have had a run of money from its tills — in the millions. Yes, it is access to money that allows embezzlers to do their thing. We in the field of ethics and compliance get the internal controls going so that those so inclined cannot find a way to do their stealing.

As one peruses the list of union embezzlements, there is a common thread. Local union officials teamed up, as it were, with outsiders to get their scam going. That area of third-party contracting is where most internal and external auditors are at their best. They know how to get at their access, their documentation, and the missing funds. In short, the union schemes are not creative nor difficult to detect. If you can’t train ’em, you can prevent their activity. Weak internal controls is more likely the cause of the union blues. And that, dear Professor Henning, is the access, and that we can control.

Now that we have settled the second part, back to the first part. The unethical will always be among us. However, there are degrees of unethical propensity. The born-thieves probably cannot be helped by training, but the fence-sitters can be persuaded (sometimes with fear) and the ethical can be inspired to report and/or prevent theft, and to remain dedicated to integrity. WE can’t save them all, but we can persuade a sufficient army to deter those who steal because the money is there and available.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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