Founded in 1935, Morgan Stanley is one of America’s leading financial firms. From the beginning, its partners ascribed heavy emphasis to upright conduct. Morgan executive, Bryan Jennings, found just how heavy when he was fired over a cab-fare dispute with a New York taxi driver.
All Morgan employees are required to read, acknowledge they have read, and abide by “Leading With Integrity.” It reads in part:
”We promote a culture of integrity by taking personal responsibility for our actions making the right decision and being accountable…If you violate this Code or any other Morgan Stanley policy of procedure, you will become subject to the full range of disciplinary sanctions, including termination of your employment…”
The Jennings incident occurred on the night of December 21, 2011, when the investment banker departed a gathering at a Manhattan bar following a charity event. Mr. Jennings climbed into a cab for the 40-mile ride to his home in Darien, Connecticut. Nearing end of the ride the driver is said to have demanded $294. A fracas ensued with rider fleeing the vehicle leaving driver with a lacerated scalp. The driver claimed Mr. Jennings pulled a pen knife from his briefcase.
On February 29, Darien Police arrested Mr. Jennings and charged him with second-degree assault and “intimidation by bias.”Criminal charges were ultimately dropped, but the episode became a matter of public record.
In early October. Mr. Jennings was fired. The Wall Street Journal reported that Morgan officials declined to discuss the details. However persons close to the case indicated the cause was the investment banker’s violation of behavioral standards set out in “Leading With Integrity.” Mr. Jennings’s altercation was viewed as damaging to the firm’s reputation.
Morgan Stanley has hold on an iron-clad truism: harm to the firm’s reputation is as damaging as other forms of outsize losses. And, executives at the firm are acutely aware that the great underpinning of reputation is conduct with character and integrity. Boiled to its bare –bone essence integrity means adherence to standards, principles, and conviction that withstand scrutiny, that are beneficial to the parties—even when adherence is difficult, inconvenient, or unprofitable.
In today’s scandal-plagued financial industry, Morgan Stanley’s actions stand stout as an oak.
[For more complete details of this story see The Wall Street Journal, December 19, 2012, page C1.]