A Former Trader on How Easy It Is to Be Unethical on Wall Street

Being paid very well also helped ease any of my concerns. Feeling guilty, kid? Here take a big check. I was, for the first time in my life, feeling valued for my math skills — the ones I had to hide throughout my childhood, so as not be labeled a nerd or egghead. Ego and money are nice salves for any potential feeling of guilt.

After a few years on Wall Street it was clear to me: you could make money by gaming anyone and everything. The more clever you were, the more ingenious your ability to exploit a flaw in a law or regulation, the more lauded and celebrated you became.

Nobody seemed to be getting called out. No move was too audacious. It was like driving past the speed limit at 79 MPH, and watching others pass by at 100, or 110, and never seeing anyone pulled over.

Chris Arnade, a former trader who worked on Wall Street for 20 years, explains in The Guardian why it’s so hard to be ethical while working on Wall Street (a new report shows that 53 percent of executives in the financial services industry say that “strict adherence” to ethical standards “would make career progression difficult”). It’s not surprising that money and greed would produce unethical behavior, but Arnade says that unethical behavior was supported by those around him:

When I did ask, rather naively, if this was all kosher, I would be assured multiple times that multiple lawyers and multiple managers had approved the sales.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.