At least financial services workers are honest about being dishonest. New research indicates that unethical and illegal behaviors are seen as a necessity by many financial workers.
In the survey, 24 percent of financial services workers said they may need to engage in illegal and or unethical conduct to be successful, while 26 percent said they had witnessed or had knowledge of such behavior at the office. Some workers took it even further, saying they would participate in insider trading if they knew they would not be caught.
"When misconduct is common and accepted by financial services professionals, the integrity of our entire financial system is at risk," said Jordan Thomas, partner and chair of the Whistleblower Representation Practice at Labaton Sucharow, the law firm which conducted the research. "In this era of corporate scandals, we must refocus our energies on corporate ethics and encourage individuals to report wrongdoing — internally or externally."
Workers seem to believe that such unethical behaviors are not exclusive to their organizations. The survey also found that 39 percent of respondents said competitors are likely to engage in the same unethical behaviors to be successful. The biggest motivation for workers to engage in such behaviors was money. Three in 10 respondents said that their compensation or bonus plan created pressure to engage in unethical behaviors, while 23 percent said other factors led to the behavior.
One big reason for the prevalence of such behaviors is the fact that a majority of workers do not know about programs in place to fight such behaviors. One program in particular is the SEC Whistleblower Program, which provides protections and incentives to workers who report wrongdoing. However, just 44 percent of respondents knew of this program, even though 94 percent of respondents said they would report such behaviors if given those protections. Workers seem to want protection — 22 percent of women and 12 percent of men said they feared retaliation for reporting wrongdoing in the office.
"It is shocking that four years after the global economic crisis began there continues to be a fundamental lack of integrity in the financial services industry," Chris Keller, partner and head of case development at Labaton Sucharow said.
The information in this research was based on responses from 500 financial services professionals from the United States and United Kingdom. The research was conducted by Populus for law firm Labaton Sucharow LLP, which deals specifically in cases involving whistle-blowers. The research was a part of the "Wall Street, Fleet Street and Main Street: Corporate Integrity at a Crossroads" study.