Bernie Madoff: Lecturing MBAs on Ethics?

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on April 11, 2011

madoff.jpgIf you can believe Bernie Madoff—and most people would not, for good reason—b-school students may soon be hearing the cautionary tale of none other than, you guessed it, Bernie Madoff.

In a jailhouse interview with the Financial Times, the former New York investment manager (aka inmate number 61727-054) who orchestrated one of the biggest Ponzi schemes of all time, said that several business schools have approached him about working on ethics course. “He likes the idea,’ the FT reported. “Harvard and Northwestern are in his sights.”

If we’re supposed to read that as an indication that the two b-schools have already proffered invitations, or even called to feel him out on the subject, the schools themselves say nothing could be further from the truth. Meg Washburn, a spokesperson for Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management (Kellogg Full-Time MBA Profile), says Kellogg “has not approached him about teaching.” Jim Aisner, a spokesman for Harvard Business School (Harvard Full-Time MBA Profile), called the notion “absolutely untrue,” adding that that Madoff was never approached by Harvard.

If Madoff does end up in front of a b-school classroom, it won’t be the first time that white-collar criminals have shared their tales of woe with MBA students. B-Schools at New York University (Stern Full-Time MBA Profile), UC-Berkeley (Haas Full-Time MBA Profile), Purdue University (Krannert Full-Time MBA Profile), and Penn State (Smeal Full-Time MBA Profile) have already done so.

The hope is that hearing how business types strayed from the straight and narrow, and paid the ultimate price for their crimes, will scare the bejeebers out of MBA students as they embark on their post-MBA careers, or at the very least provide fodder for ethics discussions.

So what’s the verdict? Do ex-cons (or cons, in the case of Madoff, who’s serving a 150-year sentence) have anything to offer MBAs?

Reader Comments

Ray White

April 11, 2011 1:10 PM



April 11, 2011 1:57 PM

Considering that (apart from Madoff) HBS and other high ranking b-school graduates have been behind most of the major business scandals - especially those involving financial slegiht of hand - visiting these cons in their cells may put the fear of Feds into the future graduates. That will have to do until we can truly expect ethical behavior out of them. I won't hold my breath waiting fr the latter.


April 11, 2011 5:03 PM

Madoff has probably the most vital lesson ever for future white collar criminals.

Never ever rip off the rich and mighty. That never ends well.

Always go for the taxpayer. The middle class. The working stiffs. Easy as taking candy from a baby. And no one ever went to jail for that.

Daniel Young

April 11, 2011 6:34 PM

The only effect of having Madoff lecture MBA students will be to raise the possibility in their minds of conducting their cons more successfully than him and not getting caught.

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