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Published: Thursday, 6/3/2010

Proponents of MBA ethics pledge seek 6,000 signers


NEW YORK - When 30-year-old Larry Estrada graduated from Harvard Business School this spring and began work at Goldman Sachs, he took an oath.

He joined about 150 fellow business school students and faculty worldwide to crusade for an MBA ethics pledge modeled on the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors. The aim is to get 6,000 graduates at 50 MBA programs to swear they won't put personal ambitions before the interests of their employers or society.

Created last year by Harvard Business students to counter a growing public mistrust of business, the oath is being championed by Nitin Nohria, the newly appointed dean of the school.

After the global financial crisis, Bernard Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme and scandals at Goldman Sachs, there has never been a better time for managers to rethink their role in society, said Rich Leimsider, director of the Aspen Institute's Center for Business Education, in New York, which is helping to coordinate the movement.

"One of the things we're hoping to do is force hundreds of thousands of people in business to talk about and think about their responsibilities," he said.

Last year, 484 new MBAs at Harvard Business School took the pledge. Another 1,500 took it at other business schools, he said.

But others see the oath as well-meaning, but a cosmetic or simplistic approach to tough problems.

The oath is "the knee-jerk reaction by business apologists to the current financial crisis," Justin McLeod, a Harvard Business student, wrote in the Harbus, a school publication.

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