This month five huge international banks agreed to plead guilty to manipulating the foreign exchange currency market for their own profit. Doing it didn’t hurt them at all. They were fined $5 billion—nothing more than a bloody nose. The market cap of these banks is over $500 billion. This punishment for a “brazen display of collusion” as the US Attorney General termed it won’t even dent their bottom line. In fact, the stock prices for these companies remained basically the same after the announcement. Not one person faces a criminal indictment or potential jail time. Check it out here.
Then there was the AP/Fox News story about those who, according to the FTC, spent on themselves over $187 million of the money they ostensibly collected for various cancer charities. Doing it was a miser’s version of the law of tithing—way less than 10% of what they brought in they gave to the charities; the rest, after paying private fundraisers, they kept for their own use. Check it out here and here.
Unfortunately, these news items aren’t that unusual and underscore a prevalent mentality that is sans any underlying consciousness of or concern for rightness or wrongness. Decisions for such self-absorbed folks seem to be based on answering two questions: How and how much will it benefit me; and, will any price I might have to pay be worth my gain—including fines or jail time or losing a job or public ostracizing I suppose.
Not everyone is doing it like this.
For those who are old enough, ABSCAM will mean something. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s the FBI conducted a sting operation. Men posing as representatives of an Arab company offered money to several members of congress in exchange for favors. The result was that seven were convicted for accepting bribes. Others, while not convicted, were far less than stellar in their responses to the bribe offers. According to The Washington Post, only one member of congress subjected to the scam “flatly refused to consider financial favors in exchange for legislative favors.” That man was then U.S. Senator Larry Pressler from South Dakota. In response to those who touted him as some sort of hero, Senator Pressler said: “I turned down an illegal contribution. Whatever have we come to if that’s considered ‘heroic’?” Check it out here.
By the way, in April of this year Larry Pressler was baptized by Clayton Christensen a prominent LDS Harvard professor, then confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Senator Harry Reid who introduced Pressler to the Book of Mormon.
A number of years ago, the infant daughter of some young friends of mine had a serious problem. Her skull was hardening too fast and not allowing room for the brain to grow. The medical correction was to cut the skull to allow the brain to expand and then put a plate in. The parents were worried to death and the father, a priesthood holder, was fervently praying that that procedure wouldn’t be necessary. He promised God all kinds of things if only God would answer his prayer. He received an unexpected impression:
“You ought to be doing it anyway!”
Their daughter was just fine, and it had nothing to do with his, “I’ll be good if you . . .” promises.
Virtue is not circumstance-driven. It just is. Larry Pressler did what was right for no other reason than it was right. That’s what moral men and women do—no strings attached.