Among the American public, 76% believe that corporate America's moral compass is pointed in the wrong direction, 58% of corporate executives agree; and a majority of Americans, and two-thirds of executives, gave a grade of D or F in ethical matters to the financial and investment industry.
The poll of 2071 adults and 110 high-level business leaders also showed that Americans believe personal financial gain and career advancement drive the business decisions of executives while concern for employees and public good seldom factors into corporate decisions.
"Today, America faces a serious problem with a financial crisis
caused in no small part by greed -- the public lacks confidence in our
financial system, and in much of 'corporate America,'" said
Along with Wall Street and financial industry executives, politicians received "poor" marks in ethics from a majority of Americans, and a majority of executives. Doctors and accountants received the best marks for ethics among both Americans and executives.
More than 90% of Americans and 90% of executives see career advancement, personal financial gain, increasing profits, or gaining competitive advantage as the primary factors that corporate executives take into account when making business decisions. Only 31% of Americans, and 32% of executives believe the "public good" is a strong motivating factor.
Interestingly, three-quarters of Americans, and more than nine in ten executives think that a business can be both successful and ethical. However, while 74% of Americans and 86% of executives believe people should have the same ethical standards in business as in their personal lives, more than half of executives, and nearly three quarters of Americans, think that most people miss that mark.
The survey indicated that the public and executives believe that religion provides a good ethical standard for doing business. Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that religious beliefs should significantly influence executives' business decisions. More than two-thirds of executives agree.
The study was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus and conducted by the
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