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KEYNOTE: "Market Has No Morality" Sophia Bekele speaks on Business Ethics and Accountability
Bekele shares her long-term experience assisting institution before their accountability meltdown and her latest precedence setting legal and moral victory over ICANN
In attendance were MBA Candidates, the distinguished Dean of Faculty and professor of Business Ethics at the University.
In her opening remarks,Sophia congratulated the students saying "I am very happy to hear that such courses as Business Ethics have been mainstreamed as mandatory course for graduating students, particularly in the wake of accountability meltdowns over both private and public institutions. Adding that "lesson in ethics as we know it, is most valuable when we are young."
Speaking on her successful career as IT Auditor working for the fortune 500 companies, which has no resource constraint, Sophia said, "as audit professionals we over-trained on the subject of business ethics. Along with the daily experience of applying it at work, obviously, one becomes a master of the game". Continuing, Sophia caused laughter noting "In my experience, reconciling the views of the ethically trained vs. that of the ordinary person is the most challenging with individuals or corporations, or doing business with those who have never taken this course like you. I assure you, you are part of the privileged few".
She sited her experiences in the banking industry notably Capital markets and her work amongst whom the industry called "Rouge Traders" and how in Risk Management the area she cultivated was really based on ethical decisions.
Sophia gave examples of high profile cases such as Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, companies going Bankrupt, taking down large Accounting firms with them. The scandals uncovers an increasingly alarming and widely reported set of CEO ethics violations of our time, from manipulating accounting rules, masking enormous losses and liabilities, including money laundering, bank fraud, insider trading and conspiracy, securities fraud, unauthorized bonuses, and mismanagement, landing the Corporate heads in jail.
She also spoke of her experience consulting in Corporate Governance space, in response to the US corruption scandals that started a new legislation such as Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) Act and how companies were faced with an overwhelming compliance and regulatory requirements as well as financial burdens not to make the mistakes made by those that got caught with the ethical scandals. Most Corporate managers and BOD needed to turn to a strict code of ethics and learned the hard way that ethics needed to be sewn in the fabrics of the organization. Sophia also cited various types of scandals from recent years like Scott Thomson, FIFA and ICANN's accountability meltdown and U.S. Congressional Intervention.
A lesson learned from all of this is, said Sophia, is knowing the time to avoid the results of unethical behavior before it occurs, and not after. In our profession we always say "Prevention is superior to inspection", and in no area is this more important than business ethics.
While delving in the wide experience of doing business in Africa especially as a young person handling large scale government projects and introducing online services, Sophia recalled that she always come across "business ethics issues", which were elevated to the higher ideals of transparency, accountability, equity and due process. This is because this matters are very significant in terms of participation in public procurement processes in government contract etc." She discussed her experience of her own notable precedence setting high profile cases and public commentaries that made significant impact in her country.
The audience were also taken through the experience of challenging ICANN's Board decision to the Independent Review Panel (IRP) and how her organization prevailed. "The point is ICANN was found that it violated its own rules, bylaws and articles of incorporation, She informd. "Additionally, the result became a precedence setting case for other IRPs governed under ICANN, which would benefit the industry."
"The panel found that ICANN has broken its own bylaws by failing to act "neutrally and objectively, with integrity and fairness" when it rejected DCA's application and snubbed repeated appeals. Although the review panel is restricted to discovering only whether the ICANN board had acted in a way inconsistent with its bylaws or articles of incorporation, its final report included repeated references to staff behavior that demonstrated a similar failure to act neutrally or fairly, and even highlighted repeated staff interventions that consistently favored one of the two candidates" - The Register, UK (http://www.theregister.co.uk/
"Most of such high profile cases seem always to be an INSIDE job, just like the accounting scandals in the US" Bekele said. "I get reminded from a quote I have placed in my email signature, "They stole without hiding because their father is the chief of police".
Sophia concluded by reminding the audience that "as MBA students, you might then go off to be leaders of you organizations, or your business or even your family. Therefore, if you look to lead, look fist into yourself as an individual to manage - your own ethics, character, principles, purpose, motivation, and conduct. Then the rest will follow. So stay the course and Lead by example.
"Ethics and equity, and the principles of justice, do not change with the calendar. -D.H. Lawrence.