Ethical Challenges of Complex Products: Case of Goldman Sachs and the Synthetic Collateralized Debt Obligations

  •  Franklin M. Lartey    


In analyzing complex products, this study selected the company Goldman Sachs and one of its product offerings, the synthetic collateralized debt obligation (synthetic CDO). The study later analyzed the ethical implications of providing such a complex product to customers. A review of the literature indicates that researchers identified this product and other associated derivatives of the mortgage backed securities as the main causes of the 2008 financial crisis in the United States of America. As such, Goldman Sachs’ offering of the product posed ethical and moral issues. An analysis of the company and its offering was done under the lenses of various ethical theories such as Kohlberg's theory of moral reasoning, the Kantian ethics, the utilitarian perspective, Friedman’s shareholder theory, the stakeholder theory, the market approach to consumer protection, and the contract view of consumer protection. Besides Friedman’s shareholder theory, all other theories judged the product offering morally wrong and unethical. At the end of the study, the author suggested a contribution to knowledge regarding Kohlberg’s theory of moral reasoning in its application to organizations. The author also suggested further research to validate the outcome of Friedman’s shareholder theory regarding this case.

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