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银行业欺诈泛滥的心理学诊断

Shelley DuBois 2012年07月24日

人们总是想尽办法为自己的抉择、特别是商业抉择寻找种种借口,把自己的失德行为合理化。弱肉强食的金融界也不例外。人的行为都是由回报来驱动的,要想银行业提高道德标准,外界必须提供有针对性的回报。

    中田纳西州立大学(Middle Tennessee State University)的心理学教授马克•弗雷姆认为,我们不仅仅为自己的混帐行为找借口,对周围的同事也同样如此。他说:“一个人身边的行为不端者越多,就越会觉得那些行为没什么大不了。”比如,在巴克莱的利率操纵和摩根大通的冒险交易中,交易员似乎都曾经抱团行动,隐瞒真相。

    弗雷姆说,自欺欺人要开了头就会一再重演:“并不是说‘今天我醒来,一时心血来潮,于是决定捏造公司数据。’”实际上,它是一系列小的谎言慢慢堆积而成的结果。去年九月,瑞银(UBS)交易员奎库•阿多博利的被捕就是这样一个实例,他在三个月的时间里实施的一系列失败交易最终导致公司损失了数十亿美元。

系统性问题

    公司就像个人一样,会把失德的行为合理化。看看巴克莱吧,该行和其它银行一样,也被控伪造了其递交的Libor利率。在关于公司董事长马库斯•阿吉斯离职的声明中,前首席执行官鲍勃•戴蒙德辩解说,其它银行也都在对递交的Libor作假,他们只是不想让巴克莱看起来太差。有一阵子,巴克莱看起来还不错。然而,一旦真相大白,阿吉斯和他都先后黯然下台。倒霉的还不止他俩:汇丰银行的集团合规总监戴维•巴格利昨天也已经宣布辞职。如果不能约束下属遵纪守法,这些高管的下场就是活生生生的反面教材。但另一方面,这些银行近期都没有倒闭的风险。如果企业文化不进行重大的变革,重要负责人的离职只不过是扬汤止沸罢了。

    大型银行的失德行为能带来巨大而迅速的回报,而监管者行动缓慢,惩罚力度也不够。在这样的低风险高回报的诱惑下,我们的大脑必然会卖命地工作,修改我们的价值观为利益开道,即使它意味着欺骗。弗雷姆,简单点说:“人的行为都是由回报来驱动的。”

    如果我们希望大银行的领导人展现出众的道德行为,我们就需要开始考虑给他们什么样的回报,才能激励他们这样做。

    We not only rationalize our own jerk-like behavior, but our colleagues' actions as well, says Mark Frame, a psychology professor at Middle Tennessee State University who specializes in workplace psychology. "The more you surround yourself with the kind of people who are engaged in the same deviant behavior, the more it seems normal," he says. For example, it appears that groups of traders acted together in both the Barclay's rate-fixing debacle and at J.P. Morgan, to cover their tracks.

    If we rationalize questionable behavior once, we're likely to repeat it, Frame says. "It's not, 'Hey, today I woke up and decided I'm going to fudge the numbers for my corporation.'" Instead, it's a collection of small rationalizations that build up over time. That's what happened this past September when UBS trader Kweku Adoboli was arrested for having made a series of bad trades over a three-month period that ended up losing the company billions of dollars.

When the problem goes system-wide

    Businesses as well as individuals can normalize unethical behavior. Take Barclays, which, among other banks now, is accused of fixing its Libor rate submissions. In a statement addressing Barclays Chairman Marcus Agius' departure, former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond's argued that other banks were fixing Libor submissions as well, and his executives didn't want Barclays to look bad.

    And for a while, it didn't. But then the problems came to light this year, and he and Agius lost their jobs. There are other casualties: David Bagley, HSBC's had of group compliance announced yesterday that he was stepping down. Those high-profile resignations could set an example that top executives will be on the chopping block if they don't keep their people on the straight and narrow. But on the other hand, none of these banks are in danger of collapsing any time soon. Without a major cultural shift, removing key participants is a cheap Band-Aid.

    The rewards for unethical behavior at big banks are large and fast while regulators act slow and penalties are relatively low. In a low-risk, high reward situation, our brains will work extremely hard to get our values on board with being rewarded, even if that means cheating. That's not even a complex rationalization. Simply put, Frame says, "People will do what you reward them to do."

    If we want our big bank leaders to demonstrate standout ethical behavior, we should start to think about ways to reward them for it.

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