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Greed Continues To Breed

Scams by the super-rich damage more than just reputation

Covid 19 has scared the wits out of us. Even the smartest don’t know what has hit the planet. No wonder, the fear of God has struck even atheists and agnostics.

After two years of the on-going pandemic, we should supposedly be a fairly sobered lot today. But are we? At least, the super-rich and corporate behemoths are not. News about big financial frauds keep trickling in from all corners of the world. White collar crime, the most debilitating and rampant offence perpetrated by the rich against the masses, continues to flourish. Greed continues to breed!

Why is it so? Why do the rich continue to indulge in financial misappropriations and rackets even when their next seven generations are taken care of? They possess more than what they can use and enjoy. Per dil hai ki manta nahi (yet the heart remains unfulfilled). Has greed become genetic to humankind?

What is greed’s genesis? Perhaps, in the unicellular amoeba which God knows when, started devouring its counterparts to grow, split and develop into complex living beings, including the human species. Have we inherited the amoeba’s greed to grow? Is that propensity still embedded in us and drives our behaviour to acquire and possess whatever we can even after millions or maybe billions of years? But this sounds rather fanciful now. So let us move to matters which seem practical and pragmatic in current times.

Since childhood, we are inspired and coaxed by elders to become ‘bada aadmi’ – the big guy who owns wealth, wields authority and is therefore, usually held in high esteem by the society or even feared. But how many parents tell their children to rise in life only through honest means. No wonder, the child grows up determined to become a bada aadmi by whatever means possible. That is where greed, corruption, dishonesty, forgery, bribery, etc, come into play. The growing adolescent does not even realise that he is straying away from the ethical path. After all, he sees ‘successful’ elders becoming ‘great’ and ‘honourable’ walking the dubious path. Irony is that we also bemoan the decadence prevailing in the society. Isn’t it all of our own making? We create a perfect environment for our progeny to imbibe all that is vile and immoral. Why do we then seek the culprits elsewhere when we are ourselves to blame? This is yet another trait of human chicanery so much in evidence today.

On top of that, white-collar criminals, including corporate barons, have the gall to say that money making is just smart play with no adverse repercussions for the general society. Can crimes like fraud, bribery, Ponzi schemes, embezzlement, insider trading, cybercrime, intellectual property infringement, racketeering, money laundering, identity theft, forgery, etc, leave the common man unaffected? This is a myth assiduously perpetuated by white collar criminals to ward off public ire and to be seen as lily white. Fortunately, this does not happen and people see through the charade.

Let us dwell upon some corporate malpractices which put otherwise clean and well meaning young executives often in a quandary. In absence of clear cut corporate governance policies, junior managers, at times, fail to distinguish between right and wrong. They become all the more perplexed when they find hanky-panky happening around them getting ignored by the top management. Such ambiguous behaviour is perceived as endorsement by executives who are still wet behind the ears. Corruption creeps in unwittingly. The gate to ethical transgressions gets opened.

A well-known German engineering MNC had tweaked its accounting methods to organise bribe payments in millions of dollars. It was seen as the company’s business model by employees.
A more than hundred-year-old retail banking and financial services company in the USA devised an incentive plan which allowed thousands of its employees to cheat customers till as late as four years ago.

Often aggressive goals set by companies compel managers to adopt unethical means. The ‘do-what-it-takes’ approach pushes managers into immoral terrain. Arrogance following long runs of malpractices make many corporates and its employees believe that they are above the law. Most of them are caught one day but by then they inflict massive damage on themselves and society at large.

Industrial psychologists have repeatedly highlighted lack of empathy among the rich for commoners and social welfare policies. Yet, leading rating agencies have been backing companies which have repeatedly or rather habitually fallen prey to greed. The greed breed is growing.

It’s time for the correct corporates to create an anti-greed creed.

Basant Chaudhary is a Poet, Writer, The Chairman of BLC and Basant Chaudhary Foundation. ([email protected])

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