The decline, if not the disappearance, of ethics on Wall Street and in American business is alarming. This issue is of great concern for many people and a constant topic of discussion in the media. America has been a capitalist country from the very beginning, so why the sudden collapse in our ethical behavior? Why has human greed, the insatiable appetite for more and more money, replaced our long held values, our ethics, and our judgment?
The answer is simple and is as old as the hills. Its plain old temptation, the same old issue that we all struggle with on a daily basis. American executives are constantly being overtaken by the common desire to be rich and to make a fortune. This temptation has been around form the very beginning but American executives are increasingly willing to risk everything and throw everything away in immoral and illegal activities.
Consider the case of former Ponzi schemer Justin Paperny, who spoke at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on April 19, 2010. Paperny learned core values such as integrity and responsibility while growing up in an affluent community in Los Angeles. He studied at prestigious schools and he was an exceptional baseball player.
After graduation, he entered and advanced in the professional world. Then he began to change for the worst. He measured his success by how much money he made, and his solid values became less important to him. This led to disaster. He is only 35 years old and yet he is a convicted criminal who admits he ruined his life.
Paperny, got into trouble while working as an investment executive for Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns and UBS. He was sentenced to 18 months in Taft Federal Prison Camp for his role in directing a client’s hedge fund that changed into a Ponzi scheme.
He served his time and was released from prison eight months ago. His time in prison gave him new perspectives on life.
Paperny said that the fraudulent scheme he was involved with cost investors around $10 million. He sold himself out for $50,000 a month. When he found out about the scheme he looked the other way, and convinced himself it was OK. Now he realizes that he should have considered the consequences of selling himself out.
While working as a stock broker, he forgot about his morals and was lured by the temptation to make big money. At first, his goal was to pay off his student loans and his mortgage, but the temptation to make more and more money continued to grow. Moreover, he resented others in his office. He believed they worked less and made more money than he did.
Ultimately, he realized the Ponzi scheme was wrong. But, he was overtaken by the temptation to make more and more money and he could not change.
Source: Denise Allabough, Former Ponzi schemer recalls greed-fueled life, The Citizens’ Voice Newspaper of Wilkes-Barre, PA, April 20, 2010.