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The Gordon Gekko Effect: The Role of Culture in the Financial Industry

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  • Andrew W. Lo

Abstract

Culture is a potent force in shaping individual and group behavior, yet it has received scant attention in the context of financial risk management and the recent financial crisis. I present a brief overview of the role of culture according to psychologists, sociologists, and economists, and then present a specific framework for analyzing culture in the context of financial practices and institutions in which three questions are answered: (1) What is culture?; (2) Does it matter?; and (3) Can it be changed? I illustrate the utility of this framework by applying it to five concrete situations—Long Term Capital Management; AIG Financial Products; Lehman Brothers and Repo 105; Société Générale’s rogue trader; and the SEC and the Madoff Ponzi scheme—and conclude with a proposal to change culture via “behavioral risk management.”

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew W. Lo, 2015. "The Gordon Gekko Effect: The Role of Culture in the Financial Industry," NBER Working Papers 21267, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21267
    Note: AP CF IO LS POL PR
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2013. "The Determinants of Attitudes toward Strategic Default on Mortgages," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 68(4), pages 1473-1515, August.
    2. Hill, Claire A. & Painter, Richard W., 2015. "Better Bankers, Better Banks," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, number 9780226293059.
    3. Luigi Guiso & Paola Sapienza & Luigi Zingales, 2006. "Does Culture Affect Economic Outcomes?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 23-48, Spring.
    4. Thomas M. Eisenbach & Andrew F. Haughwout & Beverly Hirtle & Anna Kovner & David O. Lucca & Matthew Plosser, 2015. "Supervising large, complex financial companies: what do supervisors do?," Staff Reports 729, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hagen Rafeld & Sebastian G. Fritz-Morgenthal & Peter N. Posch, 2020. "Whale Watching on the Trading Floor: Unravelling Collusive Rogue Trading in Banks," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 165(4), pages 633-657, September.
    2. Francesco Feri & Caterina Giannetti & Pietro Guarnieri, 2017. "Risk taking for others: an experiment on ethics meetings," Discussion Papers 2017/229, Dipartimento di Economia e Management (DEM), University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy.
    3. Goodhart, Charles, 2018. "Behavioural perspectives on bank misdeeds," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 87507, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Song, Fenghua & Thakor, Anjan V., 2019. "Bank culture," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 59-79.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises
    • G28 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • G3 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance
    • M14 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Corporate Culture; Diversity; Social Responsibility
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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