Greed: Greed is the desire to accumulate prizes merely for the sake of accumulation, not because there is any real need to do so; it is the act of confusing need and want, and doing so to the point of hurting others and ourselves. Have you known people, including yourself, for whom greed has caused misery? Has consumed their life? Are the greedy ever satisfied, or is that impossible simply because there is always something else to be sought? What is the most insidious kind of greed – that for fame, sex, money, prestige, or something else? How can we avoid greed, learn to be happy with what we have, and recognize when the pursuit of our goals becomes harmful?
Greed can, and frequently does, serve as the impetus for unethical behavior and actions. Within the corporate and political spheres, greed can seduce people into believing that committing fraud and other illegal acts is acceptable and commonplace in our society. The damage they inflict on others during the pursuit of “more” is, in their perception, insignificant and so common that, if, it was not them capitalizing on the opportunity, someone else would do it in a manner that is more damaging to others. Whether it concerns accumulating more wealth or garnering more power, greed pushes people to justify the unethical when it is a way to increase wealth and power.
Greed is certainly a factor in the latest news concerning Citigroup bank. According to the Huffington Post, the Justice Department just struck a deal with Citigroup for $7 billion to close the mortgage fraud case against them. However, according to the Huffington Post, Citigroup is no stranger to unethical and illegal practices:
• the Mexican banking incident for which warrants were recently issued;
• a class action lawsuit filed after it illegally raised rates for credit card customers;
• slap-on-the-wrist fines for lying to investors about40 billion in subprime exposures;
• propping up WorldCom stocks in return for enormous fees, which led to a 2.65 billion fine;
• 650,000 in fines for disclosure and supervisory violations relating to Citi’s Direct Borrow Program and 1.5 million for supervisory violations relating to a broker who misappropriated over 60 million from cemetery trust funds (citations from corp-research.org);
• a 285 million fine from the SEC for defrauding investors in a 1 billion housing-related CDO;
• a 590 million settlement for misleading investors in the banks’ own stock (Rubin was a named defendant in that lawsuit);
• another 730 million settlement for deceiving bond and preferred-stock investors;
• and now Citigroup faces a lawsuit over discriminatory lending in Los Angeles, after allegedly targeting minority borrowers for predatory loans (Richard Eskow, Huffington Post)
Yet, as a “too big to fail” bank with accommodating friends in powerful political positions, criminal charges are never filed against Citigroup’s leadership for making these immoral decisions. According to Sen. Warren, “…three of the last four Treasury secretaries under Democratic presidents have had Citigroup affiliations before or after their Treasury service. . . . Directors of the National Economic Council and Office of Management and Budget, as well as our current U.S. trade representative, also have had strong ties to Citigroup.” If you ask me, there is undoubtedly too close of a relationship between Citigroup and some of our government officials.
With help from powerful political friends, Citigroup’s greed will remain unchecked because the fines are acceptable when the bank’s profit from these deals remains high. Would incarcerating offending individuals within Citigroup’s leadership for fraud and/or other criminal offenses put a stop to their greedy ways? Possibly, but to do nothing to change Citigroup’s (and other banks and corporations) practices is the equivalent to condoning the powerful taking advantage of the weak.