Session Summaries

Ireland has never experienced such a gathering of ‘integrity and ethics specialists’ before so we are aiming to summarise all the talks from DOES INTEGRITY MATTER?

Those we have done to date are here and more will be added  shortly.

We hope you find them useful!

Integrity failures at the top of Irish banking – allied to poor political leadership – have had a catastrophic impact on the Irish economy. Combined with the insistence of the European Central Bank that institutions which invested in the bonds of failed Irish banks be repaid in full, so what should have been their losses have instead been assumed as debt by the taxpayer, have contributed to Irish National Debt increasing from around €40bn to over €100bn since the onset of the European banking crisis.

With integrity in the financial services sector a particularly critical facet of the current global environment, when the first abstract to be received was from the renowned Prof John Boatright on Integrity in Banking, it appeared that the EBEN RC would be able to incorporate a session on financial services. As it transpired, sufficient abstracts were received to dedicate two plenary sessions – an entire morning – to this highly topical and critical matter.

This session was originally planned for the Thursday afternoon following the session on integrity but was moved to the morning to facilitate a continental European professor who needed to fly to Rome that afternoon but subsequently failed to show for the event!

The financial services session was characterised by the variety of backgrounds of the speakers – academic and business (with former corporate lawyer Steve McNamara straddling both) – and the diversity of countries they had travelled from – USA, UK, Spain, Netherlands, India, Lebanon and Ireland.

Although delegates with a finance background may have been familiar with reasons for the financial crisis, Max Torres from IESE explained this for those less familiar whilst Steve McNamara’s appreciation and explanation of the financial markets during his discussion of Regulation of Credit Rating Agencies quite extraordinary. Trade Overpayments with ‘practitioner’ Maurice O’Brien from Ireland posed a less heralded ethical issue and Microfinance in India from EBENI supporter Uma Narain from Mumbai contrasted significantly with the scale of the other banking related talks despite many other similarities. Charles Larkin from co-hosts TCD and Boudewijn de Bruin from the Netherlands discussed Epistemic Virtues from different financial services perspectives including the IMF.

The man who started off the idea for a Financial Services session, John Boatright from Chicago, beautifully outlined what makes banking different and why integrity and trust are particularly relevant in that sector, not least for the integral role banking plays in economies and lives. Indeed many of his observations and advice, as well as those of his colleagues during this session, could be as relevant across all sectors of business – without integrity and values, trust will diminish and reputations lost will be almost impossible to restore.

Breakout session topics included Philosophical Approaches, Philanthropy & Culture, Research Integrity, Corporate Social Responsibility, Integrity in Industry, Leadership, Socially Responsible Investments, Sustainability, Tourism, Media, Stakeholders and Education.

Indeed with nine abstracts proposed on Corporate Social Responsibility we decided to make the Wednesday the CSR day with a continuous stream of three sessions. Unfortunately some of the speakers couldn’t make the event and only two sessions CSR sessions were held that day.

Prof Chris Cowton who also provided great support during the year preceding the event, volunteered a session on Getting Published in Refereed Journals on Thursday afternoon.

In addition to financial services, plenary sessions on the Thursday included Leadership & Integrity, The Role of Integrity and the Integrity of Business and Society, with all the sessions bar the very first featuring panel discussions with the audience.

Friday morning opened with Peter Waring’s CEOs Misbehaving, which developed into a wider Corporate Governance related debate. This was followed by talks on Corruption and Whistleblowing, Professional Responsibilities, the Role of Communications in Integrity and a variety of talks on Integrity in Industry in sectors from Petroleum to Tourism and Hospitality. The analysis of BP by Tobias and Sabine Matejek was not only interesting and relevant but also arguably contained the best use of the English language at the conference – by two Germans!

Chris Cowton’s talk on The Public Interest and Anthony Brabazon’s on Integrity from the perspective of a practicing architect proved the universality of theses issues across all professions. Doug Thomson’s fascinating talk on Corruption in Australia also proved the universality of this vice whilst Taiwan’s Ching-Pu Chen and Chih-Tsung Lai, the Netherland’s Willeke Slingerland and London’s Wim Vandekerckhove’s talks on Whistleblowing well illustrated the challenges the conscientious face when confronting wrongdoing, irrespective of the arena. The Irish initiatives outlined by Transparency International’s John Devitt showed how ‘speak up hotlines’ can be one method to alleviate these challenges and help diminish the tentacles of corruption so evident globally, confirmed by the healthy debate which followed this session.

Abstracts were received from 32 countries and five continents. In addition to the anticipated wide variety of European countries, speakers travelled from as far as Australia, India, Singapore and Taiwan, as well as Ireland’s 33rd county – the USA!

The final pre conference schedule is available at:

https://ebeni.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/eben-final-schedule.pdf

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