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Examples of Unethical Actions

by Angela Lumpkin

Five days after being hired as head football coach at the University of Notre Dame in December 2001, George O’Leary resigned when it was revealed that he lied about earning three letters in football at the University of New Hampshire and having a master’s degree from New York University.

In March 2004, entrepreneur Martha Stewart was convicted of lying about why she sold a stock to avoid a financial loss (civil insider trading). She served five months in jail.

WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers was convicted in March 2005 of accounting and securities fraud leading to the loss of billions of dollars by investors when the company fell into bankruptcy. Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

John Rigas, founder of Adelphia Communications Corporation, and his son Timothy, the former CFO, in July 2004 were convicted of conspiracy, bank fraud, and securities fraud for looting this cable company and bilking investors of billions of dollars. John Rigas was sentenced to 15 years in prison; Timothy Rigas to 20 years.

Enron’s Kenneth Lay, founder, chairman, and CEO, and Jeffrey Skilling, COO, president, and CEO, were convicted in May 2006 of securities fraud, conspiracy, insider trading, and making false statements to auditors, leading to the demise of Enron. Lay died in July 2006 before sentencing; Skilling was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

In perhaps the biggest scam in Wall Street history and a classic Ponzi scheme, Bernard Madoff for years engaged in financial fraud that cost investors $50 billion; he was sentenced to 150 years in federal prison on June 29, 2009.

Rod Blagojevich, Governor of Illinois, was impeached in January 2009 for plotting to sell the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama and was charged in April 2009 with 16 felony counts including racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud and extortion conspiracy.

Former Senator Tom Daschle, President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, withdrew his name from consideration in February 2009 after it was revealed that the South Dakota Democrat had failed to pay more than $128,000 in taxes.

Athletes over the past several years have used performance-enhancing drugs to give them an edge including hundreds of Major League Baseball players such as Jose Canseco, Olympians such as Marion Jones, and international cyclists such as Floyd Landis.


Angela Lumpkin (Vice President, University of Kansas chapter of Phi Kappa Phi) is a professor in the Department of Health, Sport, and Exercise Sciences at the University of Kansas. The author of more than 20 books and 40 scholarly publications, she has shared her expertise through more than 170 professional presentations. Former posts include Dean, School of Education, University of Kansas, and Dean, College of Education, State University of West Georgia; Department Head, Department of Physical Education, North Carolina State University, and Director of Physical Education Activities Program, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her latest book, Sport Ethics: A Reference Handbook (ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, Calif.), will be published in 2009. Visit her home page or email her at alumpkin@ku.edu.