IF THE ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes were to go out with his lantern in search of an honest man today, a survey of executives on workplace conduct suggests he might have to look elsewhere than Wall Street.
A quarter of Wall Street executives see wrongdoing as a key to success, according to a survey by whistle-blower law firm Labaton Sucharow, released yesterday.
The survey's release comes as the fallout from Barclays' Libor-rigging scandal continues and other banks, including Citigroup, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS, await the outcome of an industry-wide probe.
In a survey of 500 senior executives in the US and the UK, 26% of respondents said they had observed or had first-hand knowledge of workplace wrongdoing.
Financial services professionals may need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct to be successful, 24% of them said.
The survey found 16% of executives would commit insider trading - a crime in the US and UK - if they could get away with it, according to Labaton Sucharow.
And 30% said their compensation plans created pressure to compromise ethical standards or violate the law.
"When misconduct is common and accepted by financial services professionals, the integrity of our entire financial system is at risk," said Jordan Thomas, chairman of Labaton Sucharow's whistle-blower representation practice.
The survey was released as news emerged that more than half the customer funds at Iowa-based PFGBest are missing - less than nine months after MF Global's collapse sent shock waves through US futures brokerages.
PFGBest on Monday told its foreign exchange and commodities customers their accounts had been frozen after an apparent suicide attempt by its chairman. Hours later, an industry body said about $220m in customer funds were not in the brokerage's bank accounts.
While PFGBest is 10 times smaller than MF Global, the fallout may be larger. If the National Futures Association's report on the missing funds proves accurate, questions about the safety of the brokerage model and whether regulators have again been found wanting are inevitable.