“Greed is good,” declared Michael Douglas in his role as fictional Wall Street robber baron Gordon Gecko. It was 1987, and so began the modern era of distorted, excessive, out of control capitalism.
The movie made Gecko out to be a villain, to be sure, but it also glorified the money-for-money’s-sake lifestyle, and it cemented a fact of American life: winning at all costs in the American marketplace was normative behavior in our culture, and as long as you did not get caught, there were no real consequences.
Almost a quarter century later, have we learned anything? Hopefully, the financial crisis and current economic “downturn” (nay depression?) will teach us better lessons.
But all around us, the evidence of warped values persists, and the legal profession has plenty of issues to confront. Ponzi scheming lawyers have disgraced our profession. And there is abundant evidence that lawyers are buying clients. Offering thousands of dollars to potential wrongful death survivors in order to land the case is a violation of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar. See Rule 4-1.8(e) of the Rules Regulating the Florida Bar. Indeed, offering a single dollar is a violation. But lawyers are doing it anyway. On a similar front, in today’s Daily Business Review, allegations arose that sports agents are offering players at the University of Miami illegal gifts and funds in exchange for representation.
Greed is human, but it can be checked and controlled. It is not a virtue. It blinds people from what is righteous and true. In the long run, if unchecked, it is poisonous. We should know that by now. Let’s hope the swamp is done draining, the reptiles are revealed, and that we can move forward to a better day.