Satyam Fraud - Ethical/Moral Crisis

In my previous post I had covered my analysis of the Satyam fraud. In case you haven't read it here's the link. In this blog I will be covering some of my thoughts on what led to this crisis and what can we do to prevent this in future.

How did we get here?

I read couple of interesting posts in the net that the world is going through not just economic crisis but also ethical crisis with the mis-management of banks & financial institutions, Ponzi schemes, Corporate frauds, Bribes etc. This is very true. While we can have rules, compliance procedures, multiple levels of cross-checks etc, end of the day if someone wants to cheat he very well can find his way around the system. All our systems and processes are built on the basis of trust & ethics. When these fundamental qualities of an individual/organization fails the whole systems comes crashing down.

What happened in Satyam's case is precisely that. It was a breakdown of trust and ethics. Satyam was bound by SEC, GAAP, SOX regulations, they have independent third party audits etc and still managed to get away with their fraud that too for around 7+ yrs (This came from Raju's statements during enquiry). The current society is becoming more and more materialistic and power, greed, fame, market/peer pressure etc are taking over and some of the basic human values are forgotten. As history has shown us repeatedly those who don't operate in a moral and ethical manner will eventually fail as in the case of Satyam/Raju.

What can we do to prevent this?

In the near-term as an outcome from investigations/analysis Govt will come up with more rules, regulations and compliance procedures. These are more like patchwork and will address some of the outcomes of this fraud and add more overheads to the system (similar to SOX regulations in US where businesses spend millions/billions of $'s). However putting more regulations will not address the root-cause of this issue. This whole episode will keep repeating itself time and again till we reach a stage where our rules and regulations become more of an impediment to our businesses instead of enabling them and defining boundaries/acceptable norms. I'm not saying that we don't need rules & regulations just that rules and compliance alone can never be sufficient.

For us to fix this issue each of us need to look within and ask ourselves if we are doing the right thing. Just like there are rules & regulations for the society, each of us need to operate under the boundaries of personal ethics and values. We as a society need to encourage moral values like honesty, integrity, ethics etc and reward people who follow them. The value system needs to imbibed into the future generations through our education systems and by parents setting an example to their children. While this may sound very philosophical it is essential that we fix this as failure of personal ethics and values is root cause of this issue.

We as individuals need to take ownership and drive this change both in us and in our societies. Lets start with ourselves and kick-off this change one at a time!


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