In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, there isn’t a business or country across the world that remains unaffected by the turbulence that rocked the international financial markets. The question that is now presented to business and government leaders is, “How do we emerge from this crisis stronger than before?” One of the most critical actions they must take to answer this question is to rebuild trust in the financial system and in capitalism.
To explore these issues in further depth, the Student Leadership and Ethics Board hosted a series of events under this emerging theme of “Rebuilding Trust & Restoring Confidence.” These events explored the roots of the financial crisis and examined ways in which businesses and governments can facilitate the rebuilding consumers’ and other key stakeholders’ trust and confidence of in the strength of the capitalist system. Some of the key events that occurred were:
- Hank Paulson, former secretary of the US Treasury, recounted stories from his experience in the center of the vortex that was the financial meltdown and discussed how the actions of the US government averted a deeper recession or depression.
- Tom Russo, general counsel of AIG and former general counsel of Lehman Brothers, discussed the lessons learned from his key leadership positions at Lehman Brothers and AIG and how these lessons should be applied to avoid the next potential crisis with national debt.
- Garry Reeder, senior advisor in the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, described how this new US agency will fulfill its objective impose regulations on consumer financial products that will mute any future meltdown of this magnitude.
- Kwame Appiah, professor of philosophy at Princeton University and author of The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen, presented his work on the role of honor codes within societies to set the standards for behavior. He argued for a need for a more cohesive honor code within the business community and, in particular, within the finance community. Students were eager to hear from Professor Appiah with respect to the MBA Oath.
- Patricia Cloherty, chairman and CEO of Delta Private Equity Partners, LCC and formerly with Apax Partners, Inc., discussed her foundational investments in Russia at the end of the Cold War. She provided insights into doing business in emerging markets.
- Roger Altman, founder and chairman of the boutique investment bank Evercore Partners, spoke with a small group of students about the role of boutique investment banks within the US banking system, financial regulations, and the future of global banking.
- John Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress and former chief of staff to President Clinton, spoke about the state of current politics in Washington, America's new role in foreign policy, and the need for a more progressive political agenda.
The central themes that emerged from all these leaders were twofold: first, rebuilding trust and restoring confidence will not happen overnight; second, at the helm of business enterprises and government institutions, it’s essential to have strong and ethically grounded leaders who will do everything in their power to avert such crises in the future.