FraudJournal Blog

August 22, 2011

Is Ethics Hard-wired or Learned


I was reading a posting in LinkedIn by Fernando A., in the ACFE group, titled “Pants on Fire! Children and Lying“. The link led to a site called delanceyplace.com 8/18/11 – children and lying. The article a study into the frequency of children telling lies and whether this was indicative of a future problem. It seems that children who lie well are cognitively more advanced and are able to hide their tracks better. They tend to grow up and be more capable of dealing with complex situations, such as employment that requires quick problem solving or outside of the box thinking. The article suggested they might become bankers; I wondered about other financial positions that have recently been in the headlines for manipulation of funds and factual information.Then I thought about the recent trends in education for forensic accounting and fraud investigation. And what about learning to understand the federal tax code and recent gloable accounting issues.

Today’s generation is faced with making choices for more than which college to attend or job for a career. They have become a self-monitored social network of information and ideas. They want their lives to have impact, their efforts to matter, and their path to move at the rate that technology limits them. And I ask myself, what were they like as children? How did they interpret whether to help each other to obtain the advancement they rationalized as necessary to reach either their own goals or their family’s goals. I mention family because so many children now have been pushed through the process of high grades for college and then a better future. Does all of this push to succeed on a fast track impact their view of ethical standards?

Last week I was talking with a college professor who teaches at North Seattle Community College. They have created a new Certificate of Fraud to help students prepare for a career in fraud fighting. One of the topics discussed was about how students’ views of ethical behavior is changing nationwide. Does this generation of students feel differently about sharing information and taking risks that a previous generation might see more black and white. And if so, will that impact how they investigate fraud?

I don’t have an answer, but it poses the question of whether the “perceived need” to commit a fraudulent act will need to be redefined into less black and white and into more levels of grey. I hope not, but as those of us currently in the trenches age, and others come into the roles of leadership, what do they interpret ethical behavior to mean.

So now I am back to whether or not ethics is hard-wired or learned at an early age and how does that affect the fight against fraud. Employers are already being challenged by young professionals on what they expect as employees. Perhaps this generation of young professionals will need to show the veteran fraud fighters what they see as the solutions to a potential fraud wave looming in the future. Elder abuse and exploitation, cyber crime, and white-collar crimes will continue to rise as there is a shift in which population is taking the lead.

My vote is on this upcoming generation of professionals to take everything to the next level with technology and all its trappings. And I still ask, what were they like as children? Were they good liars too?

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