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More CEOs Fired for Ethical Lapses

By William Vogeler, Esq. on June 07, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Once upon a time, companies may have winked at the ethical lapses of their chief executives.

But we're not in Kansas anymore. According to a new study of the world's largest 2,500 public companies, employers are canning their CEOs for improper conduct more than ever. In the past ten years, the firings have increased 36 percent.

So why are companies kicking their top dogs somewhere over the rainbow? Here's what the study says:

The Public Is More Suspicious

A generation ago, the public may have been more forgiving of corporate misbehavior. What's a little corporate fraud, bribery, insider trading, rule-bending or sexual indiscretion so long as everybody is making money?

But today, even a spoofed email can put a CEO on the spot. Jes Staley at Barclays, for example, is having trouble living down a prankster's email. Authorities are investigating whether he violated laws to protect whistleblowers when he dug too deep for the source.

Staley still has his job, but the incident cost him a hefty pay-cut and the heat is still on. The bank officially roasted him.

More Corruption in Emerging Markets

On the global stage, corporate corruption is especially a problem where the line between big business and big government has disappeared. Think Putin's Russia, not Trump's America.

Or Africa, where the Wall Street Journal reported that "Somalia's central bank has essential become a slush fund for patronage networks with 80% of withdrawals made for private purposes rather than running government programs and much of the funds transferred into the bank not traceable at all."

Media Proliferation Turned on a Spotlight

The main reason for the rise in CEO firings, according to the study, is accountability.

Boards of directors, institutional investors, governments and the media are holding chief executive officers more accountable for ethical lapses than in the past, the PwC study says.

"Finally, the 24/7 news cycle and the proliferation of media in the 21st century publicizes and amplifies negative information in real time," according to Harvard Business Review.

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