Wednesday, July 09, 2008


The "Ethicist" column in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine posed the following question:

"My friend, a young artist at the start of his career, offered to sell me a 1 percent share in him for $9,000. I would receive a portion of his lifetime earnings but would have no say in the sort of work he did. This seems like a good deal for us both, but it does feel a bit like slavery. Is this agreement ethical?"

The Ethicist answers that it's not unethical. Lawprof Christine Hurt, who's not a fan generally ("Exactly what code of ethics is being followed is unclear; Cohen is obviously drawing on some sort of moral compass, but we are never told where this moral compass comes from, what moral philosophy it draws from, etc. Just a big jumble of what is right and wrong according to Cohen"), says he overlooks the securities law aspects of the deal (but he said it was ethical, not legal!). She also notes that a minor league baseball player recently considered a similar scheme but "abandoned [it] after both the SEC and the MLB became interested."