26 years ago on the New York set of "Wall Street" (the original), Gordon Gekko spoke at a shareholders meeting with protégé Bud Fox in attendance, and the infamous antagonist, played by Michael Douglas, proclaimed a chilling deceleration that gave the film its most unforgettable scene.
"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good," Gekko said. "Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love and knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind."
In the 1987 classic, the crowd reacted with thunderous applause. That, of course, was fictional. In reality, everyone knows, or should know, that the type of ruthless gluttony Gordan Gekko's character indulged in is unethical, wrong and, most importantly, illegal. Everyone knows this, except, it would seem, a sizable portion of those who should know it the most.
Decades after the film that starred Michael Douglas as Gekko and Charlie Sheen as Fox shined a light on the dirty business that is insider trading, the New York Times has revealed that 24% of 250 industry insiders surveyed say they would engage in the criminal act to "make $10 million if they could get away with it."
As Andrew Ross Sorkin, who wrote the report for the Times, pointed out, the results of the survey, which was released on Tuesday, is a far cry from the mottos of Wall Street's biggest entities.
JPMorgan Chase's code of conduct, for example, states that “Our integrity and reputation depend on our ability to do the right thing, even when it’s not the easy thing.” Goldman Sachs goes even further, expressing that no amount of money is worth crossing either moral or legal lines when they say, “no financial incentive or opportunity — regardless of the bottom line — justifies a departure from our values.”
But it seems as if those words have fallen on deaf ears considering the survey, conducted by Manhattan based law firm Labaton Sucharow, has indicated that not only a good portion of Wall Street would engage in unlawful practices for profit, but that some may already have.
The report, which can be read here, reveals that 23 percent of the industry insiders polled said that “they had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace.” It's a statistic that suggests insider trading, which is the trading of stock based on the use of non-public information, may be less of a simply tempting thought and more of am executed practice.
The report comes nearly five years after the collapse of the U.S. economy brought the irresponsible practices of many of the country's top companies to light, and thus revealed the lack of integrity with which disgraced corporations like Lehman Brothers and Bear Sterns operated.
But after this recent survey's results, it looks as if it will take more than a large recession to deter the corrupt spirit of greed that runs rampant throughout Wall Street.