Academic Year 2010-2011
Donald Meltzer has been a career investment banker specializing in mergers and acquisitions, holding senior management positions at Credit Suisse, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, and Cowen and Company, where he now serves part-time as Managing Director - Senior Advisor. Mr. Meltzer has an AB in History from Harvard College and a JD from NYU School of Law. He currently serves on the board of the Shalom Hartman Institute and on the Board of Governors of the American Jewish Committee.
(Mentored by Professor Perry Dane, Tikvah Fellow)
I would like to research the broadly-perceived immorality of the professional financial community and the possible application of the rabbinic tradition to institutional and individual behavior in that workplace.
Much of the public commentary (media, legislative etc.) has painted Wall Street with a “broad brush” in assuming (1) that it has an independent culture that typically ignores ethical issues, (2) that this culture is inherent in our contemporary capitalist financial system, and (3) that the only way to mitigate materially the negative consequences of this “amoral” culture is dramatically increasing regulation and regulatory oversight of the financial community. However, my approximately thirty years of experience as a senior practitioner and manager on Wall Street as well as my preliminary investigation on this topic have thus far suggested that: (1) while Wall Street does have an independent culture, the caricature of its ethical blindness is too simplistic; (2) the perceived unethical aspects of that culture are not intrinsic to the capitalist economic model; (3) such an increased regulation, without a systematic improvement of the institutional and individual ethical culture of Wall Street, is at best an incomplete response.
As I see it, various teachings and discussions in the rabbinic tradition are strikingly attuned to the given types of ethical challenges and, in some way, profoundly instructive to Jewish and non-Jewish actors in the financial community. I seek, therefore, to explore if and how religious ethical traditions can, or even should, be a live source of guidance as practitioners confront ethically challenging situations in their everyday business lives.