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The Credit Crisis and the Moral Responsibility of Professionals in Finance


  • Johan Graafland


  • Bert Ven



Starting from MacIntyre's virtue ethics, we investigate several codes of conduct of banks to identify the type of virtues that are needed to realize their mission. Based on this analysis, we define three core virtues: honesty, due care and accuracy. We compare and contrast these codes of conduct with the actual behavior of banks that led to the credit crisis and find that in some cases banks did not behave according to the moral standards they set themselves. However, notwithstanding these moral deficiencies, banks and the professionals working in them cannot be fully blamed for what they did, because the institutional context of the free market economy in which they operated left little room for them to live up to the core values lying at the basis of the codes of conduct. Given the neo-liberal free market system, innovative and risky strategies to enhance profits are considered desirable for the sake of shareholder's interests. A return to the core virtues in the financial sector will therefore only succeed if a renewed sense of responsibility in the sector is supported by institutional changes that allow banks to put their mission into practice.
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Suggested Citation

  • Johan Graafland & Bert Ven, 2011. "The Credit Crisis and the Moral Responsibility of Professionals in Finance," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 103(4), pages 605-619, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:103:y:2011:i:4:p:605-619
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-011-0883-0

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Atif Mian & Amir Sufi, 2008. "The Consequences of Mortgage Credit Expansion: Evidence from the 2007 Mortgage Default Crisis," NBER Working Papers 13936, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Bervas, A., 2006. "Market liquidity and its incorporation into risk management," Financial Stability Review, Banque de France, issue 8, pages 63-79, May.
    3. Jith Jayaratne & Philip E. Strahan, 1996. "The Finance-Growth Nexus: Evidence from Bank Branch Deregulation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(3), pages 639-670.
    4. J. Graafland, 2010. "Do Markets Crowd Out Virtues? An Aristotelian Framework," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 91(1), pages 1-19, January.
    5. Skreta, Vasiliki & Veldkamp, Laura, 2009. "Ratings shopping and asset complexity: A theory of ratings inflation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(5), pages 678-695, July.
    6. Atif Mian & Amir Sufi, 2008. "Summary of "the consequences of mortgage credit expansion"," Proceedings 1074, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    7. Beck, Thorsten & Levine, Ross & Levkov, Alexey, 2007. "Big bad banks ? the impact of U.S. branch deregulation on income distribution," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4330, The World Bank.
    8. Hall, Peter A. & Soskice, David (ed.), 2001. "Varieties of Capitalism: The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199247752.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kun Liang & Cuiqing Jiang & Zhangxi Lin & Weihong Ning & Zelin Jia, 2017. "The nature of sellers’ cyber credit in C2C e-commerce: the perspective of social capital," Electronic Commerce Research, Springer, vol. 17(1), pages 133-147, March.
    2. Ian P. Dewing & Peter O. Russell, 2016. "Whistleblowing, Governance and Regulation Before the Financial Crisis: The Case of HBOS," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 134(1), pages 155-169, March.
    3. David Rooney & Tom Mandeville & Tim Kastelle, 2013. "Abstract Knowledge and Reified Financial Innovation: Building Wisdom and Ethics Into Financial Innovation Networks," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 118(3), pages 447-459, December.
    4. Buchanan, Bonnie G., 2017. "The way we live now: Financialization and securitization," Research in International Business and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 39(PB), pages 663-677.
    5. Noel Murray & Ajay Manrai & Lalita Manrai, 2015. "Deconstructing Financial Services Advertising in the Run Up to the Great Recession: The Case of the Live Richly Campaign," International Journal of Business and Economics, College of Business and College of Finance, Feng Chia University, Taichung, Taiwan, vol. 14(1), pages 7-22, June.
    6. Bonnie G. Buchanan, 2016. "Securitization: A Financing Vehicle for All Seasons?," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 138(3), pages 559-577, October.
    7. Buchanan, Bonnie G., 2016. "Securitization: a financing vehicle for all seasons?," Research Discussion Papers 31/2016, Bank of Finland.
    8. Morrison, Alan & Thanassoulis, John, 2017. "Ethical standards and cultural assimilation in financial services," CEPR Discussion Papers 12060, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    9. repec:kap:jbuset:v:145:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10551-016-3055-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. André Hoorn, 2015. "The Global Financial Crisis and the Values of Professionals in Finance: An Empirical Analysis," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 130(2), pages 253-269, August.
    11. Betsy Stevens, 2013. "How Ethical are U.S. Business Executives? A Study of Perceptions," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 117(2), pages 361-369, October.
    12. repec:kap:jbuset:v:146:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10551-016-3238-z is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Anglo-Saxon capitalism; banking; credit crisis; financial ethics; MacIntyre; professional ethics; virtue ethics;

    JEL classification:

    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals
    • B59 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Other
    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises
    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • G31 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Capital Budgeting; Fixed Investment and Inventory Studies
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion


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