More Meaningful Ethics

Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 191023

University of Chicago Law Review Online (January 7, 2020)

22 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2019 Last revised: 27 Apr 2020

Date Written: October 23, 2019


Firms have exponentially increased their investment in the creation and implementation of ethics and compliance programs over the past fifteen years. The convergence of more robust corporate enforcement actions and more sophisticated industry standards and practices surrounding compliance efforts has created a booming compliance industry with commonly accepted standards and responsibilities. Within these efforts is a formal acknowledgment by the government, industry leaders, and academics that ethics has a role to play in helping to prevent misconduct within firms and that compliance without concern for ethics is insufficient. The reality, however, is that within firms’ efforts to implement effective ethics and compliance programs, compliance is king and ethics is something far less significant.

This Essay questions the wisdom of focusing on compliance without an equal focus on ethics. It challenges academics, industry leaders, compliance officers, and inside and external counsel to think critically about how firms might incorporate “More Meaningful Ethics” within their compliance efforts. This Essay argues that firms should implement specific and explicit ethical infrastructures within their compliance programs. In particular, this Essay suggests that firms commit to adopting policies and procedures that (i) protect the dignity of, (ii) promote the flourishing of, and (iii) advance the interests of the various stakeholders of firms as a baseline to be used for establishing the ethics components of their ethics and compliance programs.

Keywords: Corporate Compliance, Corporate Governance, Ethics, Professional Ethics, Corporate Ethics, Business Ethics, Business Law

Suggested Citation

Martinez, Veronica Root, More Meaningful Ethics (October 23, 2019). Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 191023, University of Chicago Law Review Online (January 7, 2020), Available at SSRN: or

Veronica Root Martinez (Contact Author)

Duke University School of Law ( email )

Box 90360
Durham, NC 27708-0360
United States

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