Chapter 4Ethics

Without justice, society must immediately dissolve.
This avidity alone…is…directly destructive of society.

—David Hume, extracts from A Treatise of Human Nature (1739–40)


Ethics are the “goods” underlying all regulation and thereby compliance. The principles of justice, equity, and reasonableness are drawn from ancient traditions of ethics and philosophy. These ethics form part of the structure of society, rather than being a product of it. The principles of justice and equity underpin most common law and the secondary legislation such as regulatory rules and guidance. Regulation is thus an extension of society.

Values extend beyond ethics. Although values may include ethics, they are expressions of what is important or a priority to a firm or individual. Profitability and teamwork are values but are not necessarily ethics. Morals are the more specific positions taken by individuals or societies on ethical issues, and may change from time to time.

Principles are general statements of ethics and values together that translate ethics and values into practice. Principles are rules of thumb that are meant to be flexible to cover as many situations as possible. It is usual to talk about the intent behind principles, often described as the spirit of the principles (and the rules based on them), and this brings us back to values and then to underlying ethics.

Ethics in Regulation and Compliance

Ethics and values provide the justification for most, if ...

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