| HBS Case Collection
(Revised September 1995)
Malcolm S. Salter and Susan E.A. Hall
Supplements Block 16: Conoco's Green Oil Strategy (A). Provides the government perspective on Conoco's Ecuadorian strategy. Designed to be distributed to students who will be playing the role of Ecuadorian government officials.
Business or Company Management;
Salter, Malcolm S., and Susan E.A. Hall. "Block 16: Ecuadorian Government's Perspective." Harvard Business School Supplement 394-002, July 1993. (Revised September 1995.)
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Effects of Description of Options on Parental Perinatal Decision-Making
Marlyse F. Haward, Leslie John, John M. Lorenz and Baruch Fischhoff
Keywords: Decision Making;
Motivation and Incentives;
Family and Family Relationships;
Health Care and Treatment;
| HBS Working Paper Series
How Short-Termism Invites Corruption—And What to Do About It
Malcolm S. Salter
Researchers and business leaders have long decried short-termism: the excessive focus of executives of publicly traded companies-along with fund managers and other investors-on short-term results. The central concern is that short-termism discourages long-term investments, threatening the performance of both individual firms and the U.S. economy.
I argue that short-termism also invites institutional corruption. I define that as institutionally supported behavior that-while not necessarily unlawful-undermines a company's legitimate processes and core values, weakening its capacity to achieve espoused goals and eroding public trust. In the private sector, institutional corruption typically entails gaming society's laws and regulations, tolerating conflicts of interest, persistently violating accepted norms of fairness, and pursuing various forms of cronyism.
The gaming of Securities and Exchange Commission rules by Citigroup's mortgage-banking desk in 2007 is an illuminating example of institutional corruption in the finance industry. After exploring that case, I provide a more complete definition of gaming, and explain how short-termism invites the kind of gaming and institutional corruption that occurred at Citigroup. I then examine the key drivers of short-termism in contemporary business, and their potential effects on the behavior of both executives and their organizations.
I conclude by proposing mechanisms to deter the corrupting effects of short-termism, including changes in both business and public policy. While business leaders and policymakers have been cautious in implementing many of these countermeasures, we must seriously consider them if want to rein in the public and private costs of institutional corruption in the private sector.
Keywords: Business and Shareholder Relations;
Crime and Corruption;
Financial Services Industry;
| HBS Working Paper Series
Lawful but Corrupt: Gaming and the Problem of Institutional Corruption in the Private Sector
Keywords: Crime and Corruption;
Civil Society or Community;
Goals and Objectives;
Division of Faculty & Research
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