Does the Buck Ever Stop?

When did being accountable become optional? Did I miss the memo? Now we learn that MF Global, the brokerage firm that lost $1 BILLION of its customers’ money, is unlikely to face criminal charges. Why? According to the New York Times ( it was “chaos and porous risk controls at the firm, rather than fraud, [which] allowed the money to disappear.”

What about the people that created the chaos and risk controls? If there is no downside to lying, cheating, and stealing then not doing so may be seen as a competitive disadvantage. Let’s not kid ourselves. What’s happening in financial institutions is happening elsewhere—it’s just not as flagrant. Why else would there be so many articles, workshops, and books dedicated to teaching accountability?

Really, what’s to learn? You’re responsible for your actions. That’s pretty much what accountability is…the breakdown is that we no longer expect people to “do the right thing.” Now we have to incentivize them because there’s no shame in not being a stand up person.

Our institutions, our government, and our culture reflect what we believe and value. Change needs to come from us. We need to commit to being held accountable ourselves and not tolerate it in other people, our institutions or our government. Otherwise we have only ourselves to blame for the rampant misbehavior in our culture.

Amanda Mitchell is an executive coach and strategist specializing in helping senior executives deal with disruptive drama within their teams. An advertising agency veteran, she experienced first-hand the business implications of corporate drama both with her Fortune 500 clients and within the Manhattan ad agency she led. She founded Our Corporate Life ( to help executives solve the problems no one wants to deal with. She has been published in Bloomberg Businessweek, and quoted in Fast Company,, and She lives in New Jersey with her family.

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