Is money laundering an ethical issue?

Author:Michel Dion
Position:Faculté d’administration, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Canada
Pages:425-437
SUMMARY

Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to describe philosophical positions about money laundering activities, depending on the way one looks at ethics and law. Design/methodology/approach - The paper analyzes four philosophical positions about money laundering activities, given that one accepts/refuses to make connections between... (see full summary)

 
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Is money laundering an
ethical issue?
Michel Dion
Faculté d’administration, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Canada
Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe philosophical positions about money laundering
activities, depending on the way one looks at ethics and law.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper analyzes four philosophical positions about money
laundering activities, given that one accepts/refuses to make connections between ethics and law. It
explores the pitfalls of each philosophical position.
Findings – The sceptical way (ethical relativism) asserts that there cannot be any intrinsic notion of
good/evil. The legally focused way (legal positivism) presupposes that ethics is irrelevant, when
lawmakers are doing their job. The distorting way (legal moralism) takes for granted that lawmakers
are deciding what is moral/immoral. The ethically focused way (normative ethics) means that ethics say
something different than law. Each of the four philosophical positions about money laundering has its
own pitfalls.
Practical implications The four philosophical positions could inuence the way ethical
concerns are institutionalized in the organizational setting. Managers could better distinguish
ethical discourse and legal/judicial realm. Ethical training sessions could be used to make
organizational members circumscribing their moral duties, as to the detection/prevention of money
laundering activities. Qualitative surveys could help to better understand if such philosophical
positions are relevant for decision-making processes and philosophical questioning about ethical
issues.
Originality/value – The paper addresses the issue of money laundering, from both a legal and moral
perspectives. It is at the edge of ethics and philosophy of law.
Keywords Ethics, Money laundering, Philosophy of law
Paper type Conceptual paper
Introduction
Money laundering activities are based on various predicate crimes. Unger and den
Hertog (2012) considered fraud and drug trafcking as the two most important
predicate crimes. Most of the dirty money which is laundered in legitimate economy
comes from:
(1) Frauds, such as corporate frauds, investment fraudulent schemes and
bankruptcy frauds (38.6 per cent: Maitland Irwin et al., 2012a,2012b and 40 per
cent: Schneider and Windischbauer, 2008); and
(2) Drug trafcking (27.5 per cent: Maitland Irwin et al. (2012a,2012a and 15 per
cent: Schneider and Windischbauer, 2008).
So, money laundering cannot exist without predicate crimes. Such legal treatment of
dirty money makes possible to address money laundering activities quite
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
www.emeraldinsight.com/1368-5201.htm
Is money
laundering an
ethical issue?
425
Journalof Money Laundering
Control
Vol.18 No. 4, 2015
pp.425-437
©Emerald Group Publishing Limited
1368-5201
DOI 10.1108/JMLC-06-2014-0018

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