Book Forum

Trapped: When Acting Ethically Is against the Law
Cosponsored by the Fund for American Studies

(Cato Institute, 2006)

April 17, 2006 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM EDT


Featuring the author John Hasnas, Professor of Law and Ethics, Georgetown University Business School; and with comments by Alice Fisher, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Law Division, Department of Justice.

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Since Enron’s collapse in 2002, the federal government has stepped up its campaign against white‐​collar crime. In Trapped: When Acting Ethically Is against the Law, John Hasnas compellingly illustrates how the campaign against corporate fraud has gone overboard. Hasnas debunks the common assumption that the law only mandates ethical behavior. That may have been true 20 years ago, but no longer. Hasnas points out that business executives have responsibilities to their stockholders, employees, customers, and suppliers. And in addition to their contractual obligations, CEOs have ordinary ethical obligations as human beings to honor their informal commitments. Those ethical complexities are rarely acknowledged by contemporary federal policies that demand compliance with myriad rules and regulations. The result is increasingly a Catch‐​22 situation in which businesspeople must act either unethically or illegally.