I have just started reading a book called "The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power." The discussion talks about the origins of the public company and the amoral character of the public company. I will talk more about the book later but I wanted to share my initial reaction.
During my years in business, I have seen many companies do things that were not illegal but designed to get around a regulation or law. They were clearly going against the intention of the law but not the letter. For example, creating a wholly owned subsidiary of a regulated company to engage in activities the company cannot do. However the subsidiary really was simply a shell and all the work was done by the regulated companies staff. I believe it was quite legal but I always question the integrity of such actions. The problem I thought it created was that the people working for the company knew it was a shell game. Would that encourage them to work with integrity or would they also push the envelope of integrity. When you see the senior guys playing the game, why not everybody.
The pursuit of profit and getting around the rules is full time job for many corporate lawyers. The example they give the people I think is profit at any cost. Then once in a while they are caught at the game or go to far, and end up in jail like the Enron and Worldcom fellows. I recall the owner of the Maple Leafs going to jail for getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar. I willing to bet to this day they all thought they were not doing anything wrong, ie not breaking the rules technically.
The problem I think is that it encourages people at all levels to act in a way that does not serve the long term health of their company or the community.
More on this subject after I have read the book.