Wall Street Values: Business Ethics and the Global Financial Crisis
Michael A. Santoro and Ronald J. Strauss
Forthcoming from Cambridge University Press, Fall 2012
This timely book answers complex and perplexing questions raised by Wall Street’s role in the financial crisis. What are the economic and moral connections between Wall Street and the overall economy? How did we arrive at this point in history where our most powerful financial institutions thwart rather than promote our free markets, our prosperity, and even our social cohesion? Can the fractured relationship between Wall Street and Main Street be repaired? Wall Street Values chronicles the transformation of Wall Street’s business model from serving clients to proprietary trading and how this shift undermined the ethical foundations of the modern financial industry.
Santoro and Strauss argue that post-millennial Wall Street is not only “too big to fail”, but also a threat to the economy even when it succeeds. They describe how, over a year before the government acknowledged the financial crisis, Wall Street icon Goldman Sachs saved itself by misleading its clients and impeding the information flow needed for the efficient functioning of free markets, thereby prolonging the mortgage bubble and adding to the financial and human cost of the crisis. They also present a nuanced critique of the government’s role, not only for the economic miscalculations leading to financial deregulation, but also for falling asleep at the wheel during the gathering storm of 2007 and 2008.
Looking to the future, Santoro and Strauss make a compelling case for vigorous government enforcement of the Dodd-Frank Act in the face of Wall Street’s opposition. They also argue, however, that effective government regulation is not enough, and that economic prosperity will be sustainable only if Wall Street professionals themselves begin an urgently needed conversation about their values and business ethics.
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Chinese society is plagued by many problems that have a direct impact on its current and future business and political environment-worker rights, product safety, Internet freedom, and the rule of law. Drawing on knowledge gained through personal interviews, documentary sources, and almost two decades of visits to China, Michael A. Santoro offers a clear-eyed view of the various internal forces-such as regionalism, corruption, and growing inequality-that will determine the direction and pace of economic, social, and political change. Of special interest is Santoro’s assessment of the role of multinational corporations in fostering or undermining social and political progress. Santoro offers a fresh and innovative way of thinking about two questions that have preoccupied Western observers for decades. What will be the effect of economic reform and prosperity on political reform? How can companies operate with moral integrity and ethics in China? In China 2020, Santoro unifies these hitherto separate questions and demonstrates that moral integrity (or lack of it) by Western business will have a profound impact on whether economic privatization and growth usher in greater democracy and respect for human rights.
China 2020 also offers a novel vision of China’s future economic and political development. Santoro rejects the conventional view that China will muddle through the next decade with incremental social and political changes. Instead he argues that China will follow one or two widely divergent potential outcomes. It might continue to progress steadily toward greater prosperity, democracy, and respect for human rights, but it is also highly likely that China will instead fall backward economically and into an ever more authoritarian regime. The next decade will be one of the most important in the history of China, and, owing to China’s global impact, the history of the modern world. China 2020 describes various tectonic social and political battles going on within China. The outcomes of these struggles will depend on a number of powerful indigenous forces as well as the decisions and actions of individual Chinese citizens. Santoro strongly believes that Western businesses can-and should-influence these developments.