The recent fines paid by HSBC and UBS totaling over $3.4 billion are just the latest examples of a society that has placed its values squarely behind the wrong choices. The fines were levied because of money laundering and rate fixing, screams to those who might actually be listening that big business and social responsibility are sitting at different ends of the spectrum. I am not painting every large corporation with the same broad brush, but the symptoms of this sickness is pervasive. It is plain and simple greed.
I am not swiping an indignant paw at just corporations who engage in these illegal and reprehensible acts, but also at the shareholders who demand immediate returns for their investments—regardless of the price. I am also calling out the brokers, analysts, executives, attorneys and anyone else who puts their own self-interest above doing what is right and appropriate. Businesses who engage in these illegal acts are basically admitting that they could not be successful without cheating; their value proposition is just not strong enough to ensure their success.
Our financial services industry has yet to learn its lessons from the recent past. The attitude is, write the check for the fines, it's a drop in the bucket of their vast wealth. Do you wonder when you hear legislators shy away from tough regulations on Wall Street and the financial industry? Does this make you question why they are resistant to go after those who so flagrantly abuse the intent of the system? Perhaps it has something to do with the campaign contributions?
Our values, as a society, must come into question here. Are we willing to shrug our shoulders and be helpless or do we refuse to put our hard earned investments and savings with such companies that are involved with these acts? By allowing these companies to continue without action from the public, it is almost a tacit approval to continue the status quo.
Money has become synonymous with wealth. As a Financial Life Planner, my goal is to help my clients live the fullest, richest lives possible. But their plans begin and end with a clear definition of their values. From my vantage point, with very few exceptions, they want comfort, security, family, good health, community and to make a difference in the world. No one has sat in my conference room and described a life that was just about money. Their wealth is in their relationships with their spouses, children, friends and relatives; their wealth is in the richness of their lives and being able to put their heads on the pillow at night without worry.
Here we are, in the midst of the holiday season, a time when family and friends come together and celebrate their relationships, their faith and their hopes for a better tomorrow. These are true values—real and meaningful I wonder how the parents of those senselessly murdered in Newtown would define true wealth?