My wife and I recently caught up with my dear friend, Prakash Sethi, and his wife, Hillary. Prof. Prakash Sethi is one of the leading authorities on corporate codes of conduct. He is a distinguished Professor at Baruch College and is Forrest Mars, Sr., Visiting Chair Professor of Ethics, Politics and Economics at Yale. Prakash has written 29 books. Yes. that is not a typo. 29 books. I often found that mind boggling as I struggle with my own book. He is a great champion of ethics, values and good governance. As a thought leader, he was often asked to do social audits or evaluations of companies that were having reputation problems, like mining companies. His answer was always the same: “Happy to come help, but whatever we find, our results must be put into public domain”.
During dinner, I asked him how he keeps up his drive and energy to keep fighting the good fight with all its difficulties and all the challenges that he faces,in changing the corporate mindset. He said, “I love what I do and it needs to be done”. His thinking is clear and focussed, like his responses to values-related questions. I remember his response when I asked why he teaches at Baruch College and not at the Ivy League Colleges, full time. His response was “I believe in public education”.
Prakash’s classiness has been manifested over and over again. November 2-4, 2006, TBLI was held in Frankfurt. In preparation of that event, we were attacked by a right wing, Tea Party, Fox News-type who tried to torpedo our TBLI CONFERENCE. One of the speakers, we invited, Max Keiser, insulted and embarrassed a speaker that we wanted to invite, named Steve Milloy. Steve had started an anti SRI fund or “vice fund”. I thought it would be good to engage and have a dialogue about Steve’s fund and strategy. Steve tried to have Max removed from the program by intimidating me, all the American speakers, sponsors and the moderator of that session, Prakash Sethi. To my amazement, Prakask took a great deal of time to listen and to try to understand Steve, who could easily be the poster boy for Fox News. After listening, Prakash decided that he would still moderate the session with Max Keiser. Steve then intimidated the dean of Baruch College, and started a campaign to discredit Prakash and have him fired. In spite of all that, Prakash still came to Frankfurt and did a brilliant job in moderating the session, and not allowing bullies to dictate his behaviour. Where most would have ran for cover and take the easy way out, Prakash reflected and let values be his compass, and continued to show respect to someone who didn’t deserve respect. I was very impressed.
In a world where everyone seems to chase the short cut, the quick buck, the predator method, it is inspiring to see someone still working at the coal face with a smile on his face and joy in his heart.
Prakash, we love you.
Integrity has no need of rules.