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Business schools assess the market carnage

  • Story Highlights
  • Business schools have been shocked by investment banks' failures
  • Close links are, however, likely to remain
  • Schools are already analyzing what caused the turmoil
  • Next Article in World Business »
By Peter Walker
For CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Some called it the "Monday meltdown". It was the day when the world learned Lehman Brothers had gone bust and Merrill Lynch was hurriedly sold. Within days, two other giants of Wall Street, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were in big trouble as their shares plunged.

Going down -- and investment banks were hit harder than most.

Given business schools' close links with investment banks, most notably as a preferred destination for many newly-minted graduates, what have they made of the most dramatic week in recent financial history?

And more pertinently, can they explain exactly what happened -- and how we can stop it happening all over again?

Schools have been shell shocked by the carnage in the financial world, especially following on from the collapse of another investment bank, Bear Stearns, earlier this year,

Richard Lyons, the dean of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, said he was stunned.

"It's all just mind bending for me," he told a local newspaper. "Right now we are trying to get our arms and minds around it, so we can try to figure out how this is going to impact us. We don't know how this going to be affecting our relationships with remaining firms."

But amid the shock it seems clear that leading schools will remain closely linked to investment banks.

On Thursday, before even the end-of-week rally seen on global stock markets as traders began to hope the worst might be over, the highly-ranked London Business School announced a brand new tie up with Goldman Sachs.

The School's Center for Management Development is to join up with an entrepreneurship organization in India to support training for female entrepreneurs, part of Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Women initiative.

The investment bank's program links universities and development groups to help women in developing economies get business and management education.

So, back to the big question -- why did it happen?

The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton school has been quick off the mark, wheeling out a series of experts to give their view of how last week's turmoil came about.

Fact Box

FT MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. London Business School, UK
3. Columbia, U.S.
4. Stanford GSB, U.S.
5. Harvard, U.S.
6. Insead, France/Singapore
7. MIT: Sloan, U.S.
8. IE Business School, Spain
9. University of Chicago GSB, U.S.
10. University of Cambridge: Judge, UK
Source: Financial Times 2008

Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the school, points to a long-term failure of leadership at many banks, leading to a culture in which individual incentives and achievement was overly stressed at the expense of the company's best interests.

"All the problems were smoothed over by bonus money, lots and lots of it, based on individual performance," he said.

"Taking risks to achieve one's individual targets, even if it puts others or the organization as a whole in danger, seems acceptable. Covering up failures becomes the norm."

Thomas Donaldson, a professor of legal studies and business ethics noted that too many senior managers have an excessively narrow view, failing to take account of long-running, slow-developing crises across a sector -- in this case the subprime mortgage market and its effects.

"One thing you can say with confidence is that the next big ethical disaster to befall Corporation X is going to be one that will blindside most of the people on the board of directors and the top management, too," he said.

"That's all the more reason for being more vigilant and for setting up processes, especially at the top levels of leadership, to allow people to talk about some of these things that are hard to talk about."

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