Michael Hershman, president and CEO of the Fairfax Group, has been awarded Columbia Business School’s 2013 Botwinick Prize in Business Ethics. The award was presented during a ceremony on Monday, September 16.
The Botwinick Prize is given annually to an outstanding leader exemplifying the highest standard of professional and ethical conduct in business. It is organized by the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership and Ethics, the umbrella for leadership and ethics research and activities at the School. Hershman, an internationally recognized expert on transparency, accountability, governance, litigation, and security, was honored for his career-long devotion to fighting global corruption in a variety of sectors.
In accepting the award, Hershman challenged students with some of the ethical dilemmas they may face when they reenter the workforce. He described scenarios he has investigated, such as employees being directed to make campaign contributions to certain politicians or to pay bribes to public officials, and asked students to consider the bigger picture when deciding what to do.
“Too many people believe the ends justify the means,” he said. “Integrity is more important and carries with it its own set of rewards.”
Hershman began his career in US Military Intelligence specializing in counter-terrorism and later investigated government misconduct and financial fraud for the New York State Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Mayor of New York City. He also served as a senior staff investigator for the Senate Watergate Committee.
In 1993, he cofounded Transparency International, which began as an idea among a few colleagues looking to promote awareness of corruption worldwide. Over two decades, it has grown into the largest independent, nonprofit coalition promoting transparency and accountability in business and government. Each year, it publishes the Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranks countries on how corrupt their public sectors are seen to be.
With the Fairfax Group, Hershman has a hand in tackling specific instances of corruption directly. High-profile clients, including foreign governments, call on Hershman and his colleagues to assist in particularly sensitive and complex investigative, security, and crisis-management problems.
The Botwinick Prize in Business Ethics was established with a generous endowment from Columbia Business School alumnus Benjamin Botwinick, BS ’26, and his wife, Bessie. Previous recipients include: Barbara Krumsiek, chair, president, and CEO of Calvert Investments; Mikael Ohlsson, president and CEO for the IKEA Group; Peter Blom, CEO of Triodos Bank; Craig R. Barrett, retired CEO and chair of Intel Corporation; Jeffrey Immelt, CEO and chair of General Electric; Patrick Cescau, group chief executive of Unilever; James Sinegal, president and CEO of Costco; and Joan Bavaria, founding president and CEO of Trillium Asset Management.