Laidley Centre for Business Ethics will help foster ethical leaders for the challenges of the future

Elizabeth Holmes sold investors on a vision of a machine that could run hundreds of blood tests with a single drop of blood. It is a tantalizing dream that would have revolutionized health care, and Holmes’ company Theranos had a market capitalization of more than $10 billion, at its peak. But there was a problem with Holmes’ product - called the Edison Machine. It didn’t actually work.

In 2021, Holmes was convicted on four counts of defrauding investors, but the line between her legal and illegal activities is a little blurry. Like many entrepreneurs before her, Holmes sold investors on a vision for a technology that did not yet exist. But Holmes crossed the line when she explicitly lied about the Edison Machine’s actual capabilities, clientele, and partners.

“We have all seen the headlines when something goes terribly wrong in the business world, whether it is Theranos or Purdue Pharma,” said Desautels’ Dean Yolande Chan at the November 14 launch event for McGill’s new Laidley Centre of Business Ethics. The Centre is being made possible by a generous $5 million donation from David Laidley (BCom’67).

“These dramatic examples underscore the need to educate leaders who work with integrity and think and act responsibly and ethically. Decision-making is increasingly difficult in this age of continuous disruption, when we are faced with hard, unprecedented choices. This is where ethics plays a major role. At Desautels, we aim to deliver a future-oriented business education, and the work that will be carried out through the Laidley Centre for Business Ethics will be more important than ever.”

Laidley is Chairman Emeritus of Deloitte LLP, a management consulting firm. He retired in 2007 after a 40-year career, but still sits on several corporate boards. Laidley recognizes the importance of studying ethics because ethical choices in business are rarely clear cut.

“David, I admire and respect your commitment to shaping well-rounded, ethically minded leaders in the business world,” said Chancellor John McCall-MacBain in a video message played at the launch. “The impact of your gift will be felt across the university and will shape the future of the business world as we find solutions for the most pressing ethical issues of our time.”

The $5-million gift includes a start-up fund of $500,000 to hire staff and begin working toward its goals of developing academic programming on business ethics, supporting ethics-based research, and encouraging the discussion of ethics in the McGill community through public symposia, guest lectures, and digital outreach.

“The Laidley Centre is a magnificent idea that came to us from the donor himself: David Laidley,” says McGill Interim Principal Christopher Manfredi.

“One of McGill’s most important functions is to teach our students how to think and lead in an ever-changing world. The challenges of the future will require leaders to consider the impact of their decisions on their employers, their communities, and the world. This gift allows us to expand our pillars of education beyond logic, reasoning, and open, civil discussion to include the importance of business ethics.”

Panel at launch of the Laidley Centre for Business Ethics

Pictured above: Elena Obukhova with panelists Grace Williams, Franca Ciambella and Katrin Tinn

The event concluded with a short panel, moderated by Associate Professor Elena Obukhova, Director of the Laidley Centre for Business Ethics. The panel featured Franca Ciambella (BCom’84), member of the Desautels International Advisory and Advancement Board, Katrin Tinn, Assistant Professor, Finance, and Grace Williams, a BCom student majoring in Managing for Sustainability with a minor in International Development. The panel broached subjects like the importance of talking about business ethics at this point in time, and the value that the Laidley Centre will be able to bring to Desautels and the business community at large.

Laidley Centre for Business Ethics team with David Laidley

Pictured above: Nikita Boston-Fisher, Associate Director of the Laidley Centre for Business Ethics; Muskaan Bhaidani, David Laidley, Elena Obukhova, Director of the Laidley Centre for Business Ethics and Franca Ciambella, Laidley Centre Executive in Residence
Pictured at top of page: Dean Yolande Chan, David Laidley, McGill Interim Principal Christopher Manfredi, and Elena Obukhova, Director of the Laidley Centre for Business Ethics
Article written by Ty Burke
Photos by Owen Egan

Laidley Centre for Business Ethics

The centre is McGill University’s central hub supporting teaching, academic research, and community engagement for ethical behaviour in business.

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