Trapped: When Acting Ethically Is against the Law featuring John Hasnas, a Professor of Law and Ethics at Georgetown University Business School and with comments by Alice Fisher, Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Law Division at the Department of Justice.
Since Enron's collapse in 2002, the federal government has stepped up its campaign against white-collar crime. In "Trapped: When Acting Ethically Is against the Law", John Hasnas compellingly illustrates how the campaign against corporate fraud has gone overboard. Hasnas debunks the common assumption that the law only mandates ethical behavior. That may have been true 20 years ago, but no longer. Hasnas points out that business executives have responsibilities to their stockholders, employees, customers, and suppliers. And in addition to their contractual obligations, CEOs have ordinary ethical obligations as human beings to honor their informal commitments. Those ethical complexities are rarely acknowledged by contemporary federal policies that demand compliance with myriad rules and regulations. The result is increasingly a Catch-22 situation in which businesspeople must act either unethically or illegally - Cato Institute
Alice S. Fisher
Alice S. Fisher was appointed by President George W. Bush in a recess appointment August 31, 2005, as Assistant Attorney General to head the Criminal Division in the United States Department of Justice.
Fisher was nominated March 29, 2005, and her nomination was sent to the Senate April 4, 2005.
John Hasnas, Senior Fellow
John Hasnas, author of Trapped: When Acting Ethically Is against the Law, is an associate professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he teaches courses in ethics and law. He has held a previous appointment as an associate professor of law at George Mason University, where he taught courses in criminal law and white-collar crime, and has been a visiting scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics in Washington, D.C., and the Social Philosophy and Policy Center in Bowling Green, Ohio. Between 1997 and 1999, he served as assistant general counsel to Koch Industries, Inc., in Wichita, Kansas.
Roger Pilon is the founder and director of Cato's Center for Constitutional Studies, which has become an important force in the national debate over constitutional interpretation and judicial philosophy. He is the publisher of the Cato Supreme Court Review and is an adjunct professor of government at Georgetown University through The Fund for American Studies.
Prior to joining Cato, Pilon held five senior posts in the Reagan administration, including at State and Justice, and was a National Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution. In 1989 the Bicentennial Commission presented him with its Benjamin Franklin Award for excellence in writing on the U.S. Constitution. In 2001 Columbia University's School of General Studies awarded him its Alumni Medal of Distinction.
Pilon lectures and debates at universities and law schools across the country and testifies often before Congress. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Legal Times, National Law Journal, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Stanford Law & Policy Review, and elsewhere. He has appeared on ABC's Nightline, CBS's 60 Minutes II, Fox News Channel, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, and other media.
Pilon holds a B.A. from Columbia University, an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, and a J.D. from the George Washington University School of Law.
The physician in your example is not acting as an employee of a corporation, but acting unethically as an individual. Hasna's point is that the same physician should not be responsible for unethical conduct by others not under his/her control - such as a laboratory assistant in the same medical group.
I found Hasnas's arguments for the most part unconvincing--especially his assertion that employees might break the law by mistake and hence corporations should not be held responsible for the criminal actions committed by their employees. Come on, a physician who refers patients to a psychiatric hospital without telling them that he is earning a referral commission clearly knows that what he is doing is wrong!