Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Bank, the Addict, and the Broken Egg.”

The recent post about Ronald Page, the gambling addict given an open, no limits ATM privilege by Bank of America, with predictable results, suggests two opposite reactions. That’s why it was an Ethics Quiz. I expected my answer that it would be wrong to imprison Page for a crime committed because BOA’s negligence triggered his addictive behavior to be countered by the response Karl Penny expresses, persuasively, here. This is his Comment of the Day on “Ethics Quiz: The Bank, the Addict, and the Broken Egg.”

“Jack, I do volunteer work in prisons with people who have all sorts of substance abuse issues. In addition, I grew up in a family of alcoholics. I say that not to garner sympathy or whatever, but to establish credentials, however unofficial. Addicts know what they are doing, even while they are doing it, they know it. They know it when they are sober, and they know it when they’re drunk (alcoholics, gamblers, drug abusers, etc—they’re all drunks—not very PC, but brutally honest). They are human beings imbued with all that goes into being human and, as such, they command my compassion and concern. But. They know. Moreover, they can stop. Many do stop. But no one can make or compel them to stop. Sobriety might be enforced for a time, but they remain drunks. Until they decide otherwise. Then they’re not drunks. They stop because they have free will, just as they drank (or whatever) because they have free will. What we call addictions are, I am convinced, simply behaviors. Drunks are people with poor impulse control—most have the impulse control of a mousetrap—that’s all it is. Because they are so powerfully drawn to a particular something (alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc.) we assume that particular something has something to do with it, and say that they are addicted to it, because they keep going back to it. Nah. It’s a means to an end. The point is, that doing something and not doing something are voluntary processes. Addiction? Phooey. Behaviors happen because we make them happen. So-called addicts are those who, for numerous and complex reasons, have a tough time making behaviors happen. Sadly some never do. For those willing to try, the rest of us can offer ideas, advice, encouragement, and support, but nothing will change until the light bulb goes on in their heads. Ronald Page had the same opportunities to do the right thing as everyone does. He elected not to, and it is right to hold him solely accountable. BOA made a big, serious, and sloppy mistake, but it was an honest mistake. The ethical breach was committed by Mr.Page.”

I agree that Page’s actions were unethical, just as it would be unethical for a starving man to eat a plate full of food purchased, placed within his reach and left unattended by a 300 pound man, who says “Watch this for me!” , and unethical for a married, middle-aged man to succumb to the charms of Megan Fox, who has been paid by his wife to call him, send him seductive pictures, profess her passion for him and propose a rendezvous. But we are all more vulnerable to temptations than we like to admit, and addicts, while they can resist the things they are addicted to, usually don’t, because its an illness. I didn’t say that Page should be able to avoid any consequences, but I view his fall as the result of virtual entrapment, and I don’t believe peopl should be punished for being sick. Page was managing his addiction until the bank put a temptation in his way that few addicts could resist. He was unethical, but the bank is responsible.

10 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Bank, the Addict, and the Broken Egg.”

  1. Did BOA know he was an addict? If they didn’t then he is solely responsible for stealing that money.

    I taught GED classes in the Oahu Community Correctional Center and learned that everyone in jail or prison is innocent. That they all have an excuse to blame what happened on other people or their “addictions”, that they have all changed by finding Jesus and going to AA or NA , and that the dumpster outside the jail door where they release prisoners will be full of bibles and AA books on the days they release the most prisoners.

    I don’t see how you can defend this guy and not make it anyone’s responsibility but his. It wasn’t like BOA knew he was an addict and gave him this access and unlimited funds on purpose to test him. They had a glitch and he stole the money because of it. Its no different then if he walked up to the bank, found the doors unlocked, no one inside and safe wide open and stole all the money. Yes some employee screwed up but in the end he decided he wanted that money and he stole it. Not because he is an addict and cant control himself but because he came to a point where he had to make a decision , knowing full well it was wrong, and decided to steal the money. Why? Because he wanted it. And if he says any different he is a liar and doesn’t accepted responsibilities for his actions.

      • Of course it makes a difference. BOA was furnishing a service. A person striking someone is trying to cause someone else harm whether the intent is cause slight pain or kill them the intent was still to cause them harm. BOA’s instent was to furnish you access to your money not harm you.

        • Bill, negligence has nothing to do with intent. Negligence is a tort of carelessness and unreasonable lack of care, causing subsequent harm. Leaving an account with a blank check for months is per se unreasonable and negligent.

          • Ok now i understand your point. I still think he is a thief and needs to be punished but now i think BOA needs to shoulder some of the blame

          • I highlighted this in the original thread, but it bears repeating. In the original story that you linked, it said that the withdrawals went on for 17 days, not several months. Still too long IMO, but very different than “months”.

            Also, the original story said that the ATM’s were inside the casinos. That also changes the tone of the story quite a bit. He didn’t just discover that he could get money and then head off to the casino–he was already there.

            Frankly, where you say that BoA is at fault, I think I can comfortably substitute the casinos and the same logic follows. Why shouldn’t the casinos have to give back the money? They are the one who actually have it right now, not Page, not BoA.

            –Dwayne

              • I think that’s the point: neither the daily limits nor the account’s “overdrawn” status were being enforced, so he could just repeatedly withdraw the maximum amount, ad infinitum.

                And the ATM’s inside a casino? Oh, they get refilled over and over and over as often as necessary.

                –Dwayne

  2. Pingback: Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Bank, the Addict, and the … « Ethics Find

  3. I agree we are all vulnerable to tempations especially when the temptation fits your fancy. Again, the man with the unlimted access to the money via ATM should have practiced self-control. He knew that the money he was accessing wasnt his, he knew there was some kind of mistake and he capitalized on it. Similar to when the cashier gives you extra change, most folks won’t return the money. Most folks chalk it up to being the cashier’s fault and goes shopping. However, it is BofA’s responsibility to protect their assets by monitoring and/or reviewing ATM cash dispursements. Just as the police cannot protect my personal belongings that may have been stolen off my (unprotected) front porch, I feel that BofA should take the loss as a lesson learned and beef up their security.
    Funny story I have about this situation….I was riding bikes around USC’s campus with my husband and stopped at a red light. While straddled across my beach cruiser I heard a familiar noise from the ATM. I turned and saw the ATM eject $$$ willy-nilly. Noone was around, no previous person to run to and say “hey you left your $”….so I was $60 richer that day. I had always wondered if I would be followed and arrested….but I knew better and was willing to refund that money if they found me. Doesn’t make it better though, I am still guilty of the wrong, the theft. But if the ATM ejected thousands…I truly wonder how many people would say bye bye ethics mama needs a new pair of shoes….

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