The solutions to often gray and nebulous ethical dilemmas new ventures face can often be traced back to trust, according to a panel of experts brought together May 4 for the Fred P. Thompson Lecture. The topic for the spring 2016 event was “Ethics and Entrepreneurship.”
With Thompson himself in the crowd, the panel took on audience questions and those posed by moderator and John Chalmers, Abbott Keller Professor of Finance and academic director for the Cameron Center for Finance and Securities Analysis.
Panelist Brentley Bullock, a partner at Perkins Coie law firm boiled it down to two questions: “Can you sleep at night?” and “If someone did it to you, would you want to sue them? Even if it not something you can sue for?”
Bullock was joined by Diane Fraiman, partner at venture funding group Voyager Capital, and Stephen F. English ’70, another partner at the Perkins Coie firm and the panel’s only Duck.
Intense student and community interest was made clear by the standing room crowd in Lillis 282, a lecture hall with seating for 243.
The speakers offered their professional experience into ethical choice making, specifically how poor choices can lead to fraudulent business practices and problems with the law.
“In many cases, it seems that people don’t purposefully practice unethical business behavior, but seemingly make decisions to better their chance of investment or profits,” observed student Kelsey George ’17.
Near the end of the discussion, there was debate between healthy competition and unethical decisions, and where that line is drawn. George particularly enjoyed hearing more personalized examples from companies with which she interacts, such as Uber and Dutch Bros.
“Companies must be continuously careful and aware about who they hire to carry out their company’s mission and integrity,” George said. “It was also helpful to hear what employers, specifically venture capitalists, look for in hiring or investing in companies. I learned your character really does hold a lot of weight in the business world.”
Tyler Towery ’17 said he is currently enrolled in an ethics course that he finds interesting and informative, but it was the anecdotes about actual experiences and insights the panel provided that brought the concepts to life.
“They stressed the importance of complete transparency with shareholders and investors, especially in times when the future is unknown,” he said.
The event was made possible by a gift from Fred P. Thompson ’51, chairman of Powder River, Inc., whose vision is to bring leading lights in academia, business, and government to campus to share their views and discuss solutions to vexing problems for the benefit of our students, community, and society. The Lundquist College of Business’s Department of Finance coordinates the Fred P. Thompson Lecture Series, which invites speakers twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring.
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