The Enron Syndrome

Despite the strictest regulations and legislations, Enrons and Satyams may continue to erupt till we recognize and deal with the true source of the problem, which ultimately lies within us…

In the past decade the corporate world was rocked by a series of scams beginning with Enron in US and with Satyam in India as the last Avatar of what we may call as the “Enron Syndrome”. The Avatars of Enron will appear again and again until the inner and outer causes of the disease are understood and rectified. What are the inner motives or the mindset behind the Enron syndrome? The minister of corporate affairs of Govt. of India, commenting on the Satyam scam, said that it is an example of “need and greed”. Greed is a well-known factor behind most of the unethical behaviour. Much has been said and written about it in the media. But is there also a “need” to be dishonest?

What are the pressures, compulsions and temptations in the corporate environment or in our too human nature, which push us inspite of our good intentions into the unethical path or pretend to be what we are not? Some of the external factors are fierce competition and the need to impress the investor, analyst, shareholder and the stock market. The enlightened and long-term approach to sustainable competitive advantage is through ethics, values, innovation, excellence, quality, social responsibility, human development and above all delighting the customer. But if the entire corporate culture is oriented towards showing short-term revenue and not on long-term performance, then it is difficult to resist the temptation to take the easy and crooked path. For example, a company may talk about ethics and values, but the managers of the company are assessed and rewarded not by their ethics and values but by the short-term results. Inwardly, lack of sincerity and firmness in the will for truth is a major factor behind unethical deviations. Without this firm, sincere and persistent commitment to truth in the will, ethics and values remain only in thought, words and intentions but will never be translated into action.

The other major lacuna in the modern financial world is lack of human touch. In the Indian thought Money or wealth is considered as an instrument for fulfilling the basic needs, legitimate desires and the higher aspirations of human beings. This human factor is totally obscured when the main focus of financial management is quantitative number-crunching and speculative manipulation. The bean-counter and manipulator have vanquished the humanist in finance.

But all these remedies we have outlined above are only helpful and preparatory steps and not the true, long-term solution. The lasting solution to the problem lies in a transformation of human consciousness though an inner discipline.

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