When I heard the term Moral Turpitude, there was no question about it – I had to make a ‘terp’ pun out of it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with US immigration law dating back to the 19th century, Moral Turpitude (as it is correctly spelt) is “a legal concept in the United States and some other countries that refers to “conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals”.” Here’s the link to the Wikipedia article. If you applied for a visa to get here, that confusing question that asks you to voluntarily confess to trafficking or drug violations in your application form has origins in this.
I thought for a while what Moral ‘Terp’itude might be made out to be. It’s funny, so it’s got that noteworthy feature. Everything else I thought of was too lame so I invite you to take it and run with it any way you please. It did get me thinking though, about what it means to be a business graduate in a world where access to information and transparency in operations is sifting out the unworthy.
I just completed a class in Corporate Risk Management this past winter – it’s a class I highly recommend for both finance and non-finance majors because of the insight it offers on the culture inside a number of banks and financial institutions (certainly not all). You can choose to take away just the financial concepts – the types of risk and how to hedge them – but you can choose to have a dialogue, even if only internal, about why the systems and culture and people we reward so generously in high-stake environments fail us again and again – and in doing so, wipe away billions of dollars of savings, jobs and livelihood. Why accountability is a preventative measure and not an inherent compulsion. And why conduct that is considered “contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals” is sometimes forgiven with a mere slap on the wrist.