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The news is full of tales about people who compete the wrong way: baseball players who cheat the rules, football or baseball coaches who steal signals from opponents, or those who conceal the unethical acts of players so they are not suspended. And the issues are not confined to sports. Think of investment bankers who conceal the truth about investment risks or just plain sell millions in nonexistent securities to gullible people trying to find an edge on the market. Often, the explanation for unethical competition comes down to the classic excuse: “I was unlucky enough to get caught—everybody does it.”

So what about our business of selling benefits? Are there issues in our own backyard? We’d love to say it can’t happen here, but we’re unable to do so. We know there were some well-publicized issues a few years ago—back before Eliot Spitzer had his own ethical lapse (and didn’t you enjoy him on CNN discussing the misdeeds of others?).  Problems identified then included bid rigging, kickback payments, non-disclosed bonus compensation, and so on. In the insurance industry overall, the topper was the creation of poorly regulated “insurance products” (credit default swaps) that disguised risk and the true nature of the assets being purchased.

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