2nd Edition

The Origins of Ethical Failures Lessons for Leaders

By Dennis Gentilin Copyright 2023
    160 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    160 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In this thoroughly updated new edition of his ground-breaking and award-winning book, Dennis Gentilin draws on both his personal experience as a well-known whistleblower and recent events in the Australian financial services industry to provide insights into how widespread, systemic ethical failure can take hold in an industry and, crucially, what leaders need to focus on to avoid it.

    In 2001, as a young university graduate, Dennis Gentilin became a member of an FX trading desk at one of Australia’s largest banks, the National Australia Bank. In the years that followed, the desk became involved in a trading scandal that resulted in the resignation of the chairman and CEO, the collapse of the board, significant financial loss and incalculable reputational damage. Over the past decade, the frequency of ethical failure within the Australian financial services industry has only increased. Among other failures, there have been multiple breaches of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act, rigging of the benchmark BBSW interest rate, mis-selling of consumer credit insurance and predatory sales practices. In this new edition, Gentilin draws on experimental research from economics and finance to illustrate how, when the conditions are permissive, humans have a predisposition towards dishonesty, and therefore, to reduce the likelihood of ethical failure, leaders must focus obsessively on putting in place appropriate institutional arrangements.

    Gentilin’s combination of intellectual rigour and real-life reflections makes this book a must-read for students, practitioners and leaders alike who would like to develop a deeper understanding of corporate ethics, governance and conduct.

    1. Our Flawed Humanity  2. Incentives  3. Accountability  4. Group Dynamics   Conclusion: What are the lessons for leaders?


    Dennis Gentilin is a risk and governance professional with over 20 years’ experience in the banking and finance industry. A unique experience early in his career in which he was publicly named as a "whistleblower" was the catalyst for his strong interest in ethics, conduct and culture. He has contributed articles to The Australian Financial Review and The Australian on these topics and is invited to lecture at some of Australia’s leading business schools. Dennis currently works with UniSuper, one of Australia’s largest superannuation funds.

    "In this updated edition, Gentilin has reflected on the events of the past few years and provided us with a deeper, more expansive understanding of governance failures within institutions. By doing so, he has taken the exploration of ethical challenges in business to a completely new level."

    Lindsay Tanner, Australian Minister for Finance 2007-2010

    "If you liked the first edition of The Origins of Ethical Failures, then you MUST read this largely revised edition. Gentilin has gone back to the drawing board to review the research and recent industry developments, including case studies that emerged from the Hayne Royal Commission. His readable style brings to life rigorous research findings and presents the case for a less idealistic and more hardnosed focus on institutional arrangements. This is a fascinating and challenging account of why people behave badly at work and what can be done about it."

    Professor Elizabeth Sheedy, Macquarie Business School

    "Gentilin provides a challenging narrative for those of us who commit our professional lives to promoting ethics and governance. By drawing our attention to our capacity to err, he builds a compelling argument that ethics codes, although necessary, are not sufficient. To make ethical conduct a reality, leaders must "focus obsessively" on putting in place "institutional arrangements" that support the pledges within these foundational documents. This book is a must read for leaders, regulators and students who are serious about creating lasting positive change."

    Cris Parker, Director, The Banking and Finance Oath

    "The Origins of Ethical Failures offers the reader a range of powerful insights into what drives misconduct in financial service institutions. Ethics, culture, economic incentives, public and private governance and group dynamics in big organisations are all dissected to draw the reader to the inevitable conclusion that there is no one silver bullet for solving this problem. Rather, the answer lies in examining the insights gained from a range of disciplines and drawing the threads together, something that Gentilin does well. I commend this book to anyone seeking a more holistic understanding of ethical failure."

    Helen Bird, Senior Lecturer, Swinburne Law School

    "Gentilin knows the research, and the theory, but more importantly - he has lived and exemplified the reality. If you want to be a better professional, and to be a better professional organisational leader with credibility, you will buy and read this book."

    A J Brown, Professor of Public Policy & Law, Griffith University; Board member, Transparency International