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December 15, 2004

News & Opinion: Time Warner pays up

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 6:03 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

I work at FORTUNE magazine, so the big news is our shop today is that Time Warner has agreed to settle with the SEC and the Justice Department over allegations that its AOL unit improperly inflated its revenues back in 2000 and 2001. This will cost the company $500 million in fines. It has already caused untold damage to its reputation. And it has been a huge distraction for the past three or four years. Since I write about values and business, people often ask me whether there is a bottom-line payoff for ethical or socially responsible behavior. I write about this in my book, Faith and Fortune: The Quiet Revolution to Reform American Business." But sometimes I think it's a dumb question. If we are only going to be ethical or socially responsible when it pays off, then there's not much point to ethics, is there? Besides, today's Time Warner story--along with all the scandals that have gone before it-makes clear that unethical behavior exacts a terrible toll on a company and its people.