Our Individual Responsibility as Workers?

According to a piece in the January 2009 issue of the ABA Journal, the membership magazine of the American Bar Association, lawyers should bear “plenty” of the blame for the subprime mortgage crisis:

As legislators, they helped remove restrictions on commercial banks that allowed them to get involved with subprime mortgage-backed securities.”

As regulators, they allowed leverage at investment banks to increase largely unchecked.”

As judges, they made it harder for shareholders to bring suits to stop the financial shenanigans.”

As counsel, their legal opinions gave sanction to deals that, in the words of the analysts behind them, ‘could have been structured by cows.'”

It’s a pretty strong piece from the flagship periodical of the nation’s main bar association for lawyers.  It suggests that even if these attorneys were operating within ethical standards of conduct for lawyers, they nonetheless should bear some individual responsibility for helping to orchestrate the economic difficulty we are in today.

If this is the case, does every worker have a responsibility to consider the social, economic, and political ripple effects of his or her actions?  Is it fair to impose such expectations on a lawyer representing a client?  Or on a retail manager selecting which products to carry in a store?  Or on an architect considering the environmental implications of a building design?  And what about the law professors who helped to train the lawyers?

Here’s the link to the ABA Journal’s article, “How Lawyers Enabled the Meltdown”: http:///www.abajournal.com/magazine/how_lawyers_enabled_the_meltdown/

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