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Being Right, Doing Right, and Ethical Leadership

Matt Kelly | December 21, 2015

Compliance officers can find good guidance in all sorts of places, but let’s not forget that supreme compendium of legal wisdom: old episodes of Law & Order.

The nugget of advice springing to my mind today came from an episode in 1999, “Gunshow,” where Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy takes a gun manufacturer to court because its assault rifle was used in a mass shooting. McCoy wins a guilty verdict from the jury, but the judge immediately sets aside the verdict and acquits the company. Then he lectures McCoy with this zinger: “There is a difference between being right, and doing right.” 

That is a powerful insight into ethics and human behavior, and one that corporate executives should take to heart—people like, say, arrogant twerps running pharmaceutical companies, exploiting the letter of the law to behave like a jackass.

The jackass in question, of course...

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