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The role of ethics in the financial community today seems to be limited to its role in financial-economic theory. Contemporary financial economists view ethics in the context of objective wealth maximization. In this context, ethics functions primarily as a constraint on behavior. This view is both illogical and ambiguous. It is illogical because it may actually sanction unethical behavior if such behavior can be shown to lead to material gain. It is ambiguous because, throughout the 2000-year history of moral philosophy, ethics has generally been viewed as a behavioral motivation, not as a constraint. If a conception of ethics as the fundamental objective in all human endeavor is disseminated in the financial community, there is real hope that ethics will be accepted as both logically consistent and desirable.
Financial Analysts Journal © 1993 CFA Institute