Reconstructing ethical conduct within financial firms

Sally Wheeler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter explores whether ethical cultures can be created within a financial market context. Ongoing regulatory and legal actions, and press coverage of these, suggest that a definition of ethical problems in terms of ‘rogue traders’ and ‘bad apples’ would be inadequate, since entire business areas have been resorting to collusive illegal behaviour. The concept of ‘bad barrels’ seems to capture the situation rather better: the culture of firms fails to discourage transgression and indeed supports it. Unpacking the links between regulatory objectives and the cultural settings of firms and their employees, this chapter questions the chances of success of measures such as enhanced controls on individuals and restructured reward mechanisms. Financial firms typically have very flat, nodal structures, within which traders conceptualise themselves as an elite, in contrast to back office staff and also in contrast to managers. Traders’ functions and their occupational mobility mean that their linkages and attachments may be much stronger with others outside ‘their’ firm than their firm and those within it. Performance, camaraderie and their linkages are important in all work situations, yet all the more so for traders in financial markets. Thus, whether regulators and senior management combine to send a clear and consistent message to traders – or whether the logic of the financial marketplace leads some firms to continue send conflicting or ambivalent messages to them – misconduct is likely to continue to be a tough nut to crack.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReconstructing ethical conduct within financial firms
EditorsN Dorn
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9781138943124
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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