It is amazing to read the stories of CEO’s and corporations that get caught in the most elaborate schemes to drive up stock prices, and generate large profits. They are creative, but always seem to lack common sense. I often wonder how it all starts.

Are they sitting at their desk concerned with annual earnings, and how a drop in stock prices will affect their annual bonus? Is their fear of failure so strong that it drives them to act unethically to earn a profit, and satisfy stakeholders? How does it start? Once it starts I imagine it’s hard to get out of it. Especially if it works.

Former CEO John Stumpf is one of many CEO’s to get caught acting unethically, and to stand before a US Senate Committee to answer for his actions. He led Wells Fargo during a time when employees were asked to create at least eight fake accounts for every customer. The so called increase in business would raise stock prices. Under John’s leadership the company collected $2.6 million from fees on unauthorized accounts.

Once the deceit was discovered Wells had to pay $185 million in fines, 5,300 people were fired, and Stumpf would later step down as CEO. The companies reputation would be hurt, and Stumpf would have to pay back millions of dollars.

As I read these cases I am astounded by how many people get involved. Over five thousand people were fired at Wells. In other cases of corporate fraud CEO’s rarely acted alone. They are accompanied by a devout group of people who back their actions, and profit from them.

It’s so easy to begin to judge them. To look at their greed in disgust. I am pretty sure that I would have been able to shield myself when the first phone call came, or enticement to open up a fake account. Right?

A department supervisor begins to talk about opening fake accounts, or perhaps they would have called them secondary accounts. Perhaps someone said it was a way to establish additional credit for loyal customers. They were doing them as a service. That doesn’t sound so bad. Yeah, I can help them out. We can get their credit established, and ready for when they need it.

Surely a memo didn’t come down and say that we want to establish fraudulent accounts so we can drive up stock prices. Surely no one said do this or your lose your job?

Let’s learn from these cases, and use them to look at what we are doing in our lives, and at work. I doubt any of us could say that we have never been tempted to cheat a company in some way. If we have then we are as guilty as CEO’s like Stumpf.

As Christians in business we are held to a higher standard. Small indiscretions are a big deal to God. He doesn’t look at million dollar fraud any different then He does us taking office supplies home. He also asks us to look at our own hearts, before we judge the hearts of others.

I can’t imagine doing anything that would lead to opening millions of fraudulent accounts. I can’t comprehend the actions that led up to John Stumpf standing before a congressional committee and apologizing for the misconduct at Wells.

I can remember the wrong I have committed against God, and am humbled by the grace that He has shown me. I will never stand before Him in judgement, and that knowledge helps me to remember that without Him nothing would stop me from insatiable greed, and acting immorally and unethically to drive up profits, and satisfy an unquenchable desire for more money.

Because of His grace,

Marcy Pedersen

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