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Case Study-"Confidential Accounts At Swiss Bank Corporation"

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Ethical principles are essential for the proper and fair conduct of business around the world. In principal, ethical principles can and should dominate any and all decision making, regardless if it occurs during a business transaction. Without ethics, it would be impossible to conduct business and establish the trust necessary between consumers and business entities.

Of the many ethical principles that exist, several exist that relate to business ethics. Egoism is defined as the ethical belief that self-interest is the just and proper motive for all human conduct ( Egoism is essential in the banking industry because an individual in their right mind will not use nor trust a bank if the bank is going to lose or misuse their money. Cultural Relativism is defined as the principle that an individual human's beliefs and activities should be interpreted in terms of his or her own culture (

Still more ethical principles that guide business making decisions include Utilitarianism, which is defined as the ethical theory proposed by Jeremy Bentham and James Mill that all action should be directed toward achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people ( Rights, the foundation of the U.S. constitution and the happiness of free people around the world, are defined as anything that is in accordance with what is good, proper, or just ( Without the protection of all individual's rights, the world cannot exist in its current state, and the conduct of business would be impossible. Lastly, Justice is defined as the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness ( Without justice, it is impossible to protect individuals' rights and ensure their safety and well-being.

Throughout the "Confidential Accounts at Swiss Bank Corporation" case study, without a doubt, the key decision-maker in the report is Alan Adler, the very capable and renowned investment adviser in Zurich, Switzerland. As the adviser for many wealthy individuals from Canada, Germany and the United States, Adler prides himself on the services he and the ultra-secret Swiss banks for which he works can provide those individuals. Mr. Adler has always encouraged his clients to read the Swiss Bank Corporation (SBC) Profile, the SBC annual report regarding bank policy. Before 1993, Alan Adler was able to promise absolute financial confidentiality to his clients, keeping all of his clientele information, especially the names, addresses and account numbers, and the system to decode them, in an SBC safe deposit box, accessible only to him and the people he served. However, given increased international pressure, especially from Haiti, the Philippines and the United States, the Swiss Parliament began to reconsider its long standing and internationally renowned secret banking law.

From 1993-2000, again with increased pressure from the international community, the Swiss Parliament enacted a series of changes that effectively eliminated the secret policies that once made Switzerland the epicenter of personal, private finances. Increased transparency by Swiss banks with international investigations has netted the reclamation of several hundreds of millions of dollars by individuals around world. Due to the changes in Swiss banking law, the accounts of several deposed dictators, most notably Saddam Hussein, have been tapped, and the money laundered or stolen have been returned to its rightful owners. Moreover, the US Securities and Exchange Commission, with the help of the Swiss government, are able to pursue money launderers, inside traders and tax evaders. Essentially, the once ultra-secret Swiss bank accounts are a thing of the past. Bankers in Switzerland, under the old law, retained the "right" to report suspicious or illegal banking activity. Under the new law, bankers are obligated to report any activity that seems illegal, and are legally obliged to cooperate with any financial investigation, both domestic and foreign.

Given Alan Adler's sterling track record, the changes he observed from the early 90's into the early 2000's was disturbing to him, especially given the implicit level of trust he has with each of his clients. Before now, Adler has always, without a doubt, been able to ensure his clients that their personal financial information would always remain secret; thus, his first dilemma. In good conscious, Adler can no longer promise his clients the hallmark Swiss bank secrecy that he once could, a problematic development. Secondly, Adler faces the prospect of being forced, even unwillingly, to report ALL of his clients' information if any of them



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