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Ethics, Inc

Only in America: ethics has become a business. In the wake of Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, passed in 2002 in the wake of financial scandals such as Enron and Tyco, a lot of companies are struggling to cope with the complexities of compliance. As James Hyatt writes in BusinessEthics.com “corporations are rushing to learn ethics virtually overnight and, as they do so, a vast new industry of consultants and suppliers has emerged. The ethics industry has been born.” Hyatt reports that at Goldman Sachs, CEO Hank Paulson will moderate 20 forums this year on ethics; the bank’s entire staff of managing directors is required to attend. Citigroup is adding annual ethics training for all 300,000 employees. And The New York Times has signed a multi-year agreement with LRN, a Los Angeles-based firm, to provide a legal and ethics education program. LRN’s CEO, Dov Seidman, says his business has at least doubled in the last two years. Growth is also rapid at EthicsPoint which provides ethics online: the firm builds integrated web and telephony systems “seen by stakeholders as a safe reporting mechanism…(that also provides) automated and accurate distribution”. At Lubrizol, a specialty chemicals company, two people work on ethics part-time; they help with such tasks as posting ethics guidelines in seven languages, and overseeing 27 regional ethics leaders around the world whom employees can contact with questions. It looks to me as a niche market for mobile-enabled, location-specific, friction-free ethics is opening up: Who will join me in launching 0800_Be_Good?

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