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Business Ethics Quotes

  • "What would happen if employees of a London casino were found colluding to rig games for the benefit of the house, and particularly themselves? The police would arrive in force, the company would lose its operating licence and senior management would be excluded from the industry … banks should operate to standards as high as those of casinos."
    John Kay (1948–), British economist
    On revelations that banks had profited by manipulating the LIBOR interest rate.
    Source: Financial Times (London) (July 4, 2012)
  • "I will manage my enterprise with loyalty and care, and I will not advance my personal interests at the expense of my enterprise or society … I will protect the human rights and dignity of all people affected by my enterprise, and I will oppose discrimination and exploitation … I will protect the right of future generations to advance their standard of living and enjoy a healthy planet."
    Oath devised by MBA students at Harvard University
    Source: Quoted in the Independent (London) (July 8, 2010)
  • "Consumerism has become a new religion, complete with its high priests at Which? and its fatwas against anyone with the temerity to try to sell anything at more than cost price … It is a depressingly medieval outlook on economic life."
    Sean O'Grady, British economics journalist
    Source: Independent (London) (November 26, 2009)
  • "No one can lie about what the the future will bring because nobody knows what the future will bring."
    Sisam Brune, US lawyer
    Defending Matt Tannin, a Bear Stearns hedge fund manager, against criminal charges of misleading investors in the run-up to the fund’s collapse.
    Source: Quoted in the Independent (London) (October 16, 2009)
  • "In London, Washington, and Paris people talk of bonuses or no bonuses. In parts of Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, the struggle is for food or no food."
    Robert Zoellick (1953–), US president of the World Bank
    Source: Quoted in the Independent (London) (April 1, 2009)
  • "When I find a short-seller, I want to tear his heart out and eat it before his eyes while he's still alive."
    Richard S. Fuld, Jr (1946–), US CEO and chairman of the collapsed Lehman Brothers investment house
    Source: Quoted in the Financial Times (London) (December 30, 2008)
  • "That Wall Street has gone down because of this is justice … They built a castle to rip people off. Not once in all these years have I come across a person inside a big Wall Street firm who was having a crisis of conscience."
    Steve Eisman, US financial trader
    Source: Quoted in Condé Nast Portfolio (New York) (December 2008)
  • "I'm going to ask the three executives here to raise their hand if they flew here commercial. Let the record show, no hands went up. Second, I'm going to ask you to raise your hand if you are planning to sell your jet in place now and fly back commercial. Let the record show, no hands went up."
    Brad Sherman (1954–), US congressman
    Source: To the chief executive officers of Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors at a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee (November 18, 2008)
  • "There is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, DC, and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they're going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses. It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. It kind of makes you a little bit suspicious."
    Gary Ackerman (1942–), US congressman
    Source: To the chief executive officers of Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors at a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee (November 18, 2008)
  • "Your company is now bankrupt, our economy is now in a state of crisis, but you get to keep $480 million. I have a very basic question for you: Is this fair?"
    Henry Waxman (1939–), US politician
    Questioning Lehman Brothers CEO Richard S. Fuld Jr over the bank's collapse.
    Source: Speaking at a Congressional hearing (October 5, 2008)
  • "To a bystander like me, those who made 190 million pounds deliberately underselling the shares of HBOS, in spite of its very strong capital base, and drove it into the bosom of Lloyds TSB Bank, are clearly bank robbers and asset strippers."
    Dr John Sentamu (1949–), Ugandan-born archbishop of York
    Source: Adressing a meeting of bankers (September 24, 2008)
  • "They are like looters after a hurricane."
    Andrew Cuomo (1957–), US governor of New York State
    On short-selling of bank shares by traders during the financial crisis.
    Source: Attributed (September 2008)
  • "If it is not right, don't do it; if it is not true, don't say it."
    John A. Byrne, US journalist and writer
    Source: Fast Company: The Rules of Business (2005)
  • "If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room."
    Dame Anita Roddick (19422007), British entrepreneur and founder of The Body Shop
    Source: Quoted in 4-D Branding (Thomas Gad, 2001)
  • "We have our values from the church, the temple, the mosque. Do not rob, do not murder. But our behaviour changes the minute we go into the corporate place. Suddenly all of this is irrelevant."
    Dame Anita Roddick (19422007), British entrepreneur and founder of The Body Shop
    Source: Interview, Marketing Week (February 24, 2000)
  • "The latter-day robber barons are discovering that better conditions and rewards for workers pay off in a world where consumers increasingly demand ethical standards."
    Clare Short (1946–), British politician
    Source: Management Today (November 1999)
  • "A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business."
    Henry Ford (18631947), US industrialist, automobile manufacturer, and founder of Ford Motor Company
    Source: Quoted in The Arizona Republic (1999)
  • "As an anonymous participant in financial markets, I never had to weigh the social consequences of my actions … I felt justified in ignoring them on the grounds that I was playing by the rules."
    George Soros (1930–), Hungarian-born US financier, entrepreneur, and philanthropist
    Source: The Crisis of Global Capitalism (1998)
  • "I'll keep it short and sweet. Family. Religion. Friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business."
    John Swartzwelder (1950–), US television writer and author
    Spoken by tycoon C. Montgomery Burns.
    Source: The Simpsons, Fox TV (April 20, 1997)
  • "If you can take advantage of a situation in some way, it's your duty as an American to do it."
    John Swartzwelder (1950–), US television writer and author
    Spoken by tycoon C. Montgomery Burns.
    Source: The Simpsons, Fox TV (February 2, 1997)
  • "I believe that nicotine is not addictive."
    Thomas Sandefur (19391996), US head of Brown & Williamson
    Said at the 1994 US Congressional hearings on the tobacco industry.
    Source: Quoted in the New York Times (1997)
  • "Creative swiping provides energy to an organization."
    Chuck Chambers, US CEO of Sara Lee Direct
    Source: Quoted in Liberation Management (Tom Peters, 1992)
  • "If there was a market in mass-produced portable nuclear weapons, we'd market them too."
    Sir Alan, Lord Sugar (1947–), British entrepreneur, TV personality, and founder of Amstrad electronics company
    Source: Quoted in The Condition of Postmodernity (David Harvey, 1989)
  • "The market has no morality."
    Michael, Lord Heseltine (1933–), British politician
    Source: Interview on Panorama, BBC TV (June 1988)
  • "We take society's capital, we take their people, we take their materials, yet without a good profit we are using precious resources that could be used better elsewhere."
    Konosuke Matsushita (18941989), Japanese electronics executive, entrepreneur, and inventor
    Source: Quest for Prosperity (1988)
  • "I find it rather easy to portray a businessman. Being bland, rather cruel and incompetent comes naturally to me."
    John Cleese (1939–), British comedian, actor, and writer
    Referring to appearing in industrial training videos.
    Source: Newsweek (June 15, 1987)
  • "There cannot be a situation where a businessman says, “I base all my business on moral considerations.” Equally, you can't say you can run a business without morality."
    Sir Timothy Bevan (1927–), British banker
    Said as Chairman of Barclays Bank Ltd, when asked about Barclays' withdrawal from South Africa.
    Source: Observer (London) (November 30, 1986)
  • "I ran the wrong kind of business, but I did it with integrity."
    Sydney Biddle Barrows (1952–), US brothel owner
    Source: “Mayflower Madam Tells All,” Boston Globe (1986)
  • "The meek shall inherit the Earth, but not the mineral rights."
    J. Paul Getty (18921976), US entrepreneur, oil industry executive, and financier
    Source: Quoted in The Great Getty (Robert Lenzner, 1985)
  • "Commercialism is doing well that which should not be done at all."
    Gore Vidal (1925–), US novelist and critic
    Source: Listener (August 1975)
  • "In business we cut each others' throats, but now and then we sit around the same table and behave—for the sake of the ladies."
    Aristotle Onassis (19061975), Greek shipowner and financier
    Source: Sunday Times (London) (March 16, 1969)
  • "Two half truths do not make a truth."
    Arthur Koestler (19051983), British writer and journalist
    Source: The Ghost in the Machine (1967)
  • "Experience teaches you that the man who looks you straight in the eye, particularly if he adds a firm handshake, is hiding something."
    Clifton Fadiman (19041999), US editor and author
    Source: Enter Conversing (1962)
  • "Armaments, universal debt, and planned obsolescence—these are the three pillars of Western prosperity."
    Aldous Huxley (18941963), British novelist and essayist
    Source: Island (1962), ch. 9
  • "Such is the brutalization of commercial ethics in this country no one can feel anything more delicate than the velvet touch of a soft buck."
    Raymond Chandler (18881959), US writer
    Letter to his publisher.
    Source: Quoted in Raymond Chandler Speaking (Dorothy Gardiner and Katherine S. Walker, eds, 1962)
  • "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics."
    Franklin D. Roosevelt (18821945), US president
    Source: Second presidential inaugural address (January 20, 1937)
  • "Food comes first, then morals."
    Bertolt Brecht (18981956), German playwright and poet
    Source: The Threepenny Opera (1928)
  • "Love your neighbour is not merely sound Christianity; it is good business."
    David Lloyd George (Earl of Dwyfor) (18631945), British prime minister
    Source: Quoted in “Sayings of the Week,” Observer (London) (February 20, 1921)
  • "Commerce, n. A kind of transaction in which A plunders from B the goods of C, and for compensation B picks the pocket of D of money belonging to E."
    Ambrose Bierce (18421914?), US journalist and writer
    Source: The Devil's Dictionary (1911)
  • "Most men are individuals no longer so far as their business, its activities, or its moralities are concerned. They are not units but fractions."
    Woodrow Wilson (18561924), US president
    Source: Address to the American Bar Association (August 31, 1910)
  • "Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it."
    G. K. Chesterton (18741936), British novelist, poet, and critic
    Source: The Man Who Was Thursday (1908)
  • "Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest."
    Mark Twain (18351910), US writer
    Source: Speech to the Young People’s Society, Greenpoint Baptist Church, Brooklyn, New York (1901)
  • "If you can't pay for a thing, don't buy it. If you can't get paid for it, don't sell it. Do this, and you will have calm and drowsy nights, with all of the good business you have now and none of the bad."
    Benjamin Franklin (17061790), US politician, inventor, and journalist
    Source: Quoted in Fors Clavigera (John Ruskin, 1873)
  • "Thou shalt not steal; an empty feat
    when it's so lucrative to cheat.
    Arthur Hugh Clough (18191861), British poet
    Source: “The Latest Decalogue” (1862)
  • "Oh God, that bread should be so dear
    And flesh and blood so cheap.
    Thomas Hood (17991845), British poet
    Source: “The Song of the Shirt” (1843)
  • "Here's the rule for bargains: Do other men, for they would do you. That's the true business precept."
    Charles Dickens (18121870), British novelist
    Source: Martin Chuzzlewit (1843–1844), ch. 11
  • "A bargain is in its very essence a hostile transaction. Do not all men try to abate the price of all they buy? I contend that a bargain—even between brethren—is a declaration of war."
    George Gordon, Lord Byron (17881824), British poet
    Source: Letter (July 14, 1821)
  • "Ministers and merchants love nobody."
    Thomas Jefferson (17431826), US president
    Source: Letter to John Langdon (September 11, 1785)
  • "The leader should know how to enter into evil when necessity commands."
    Niccolò Machiavelli (14691527), Italian historian, statesman, and political philosopher
    Source: The Prince (1513)
  • "If you allow men to use you for your own purposes, they will use you for theirs."
    Aesop (620?560? bc), Greek writer
    Source: “The Horse, Hunter, and Stag” (6th century bc)
  • "You can't get that sort of buying opportunity very often. It's important to take advantage of it, if you have the guts and temperament."
    David Lui, Hong Kong-based investment fund manager
    On the Tiananmen Square massacre

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