WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a stunning announcement on the steps of the Capitol today, scientists from four leading research centers believe they have found a direct link between the ethics scandals of the last five years - perhaps five decades - and a chemical imbalance in the brain.
The new disease, which scientists are calling "Involuntary Ethics Disorder," affects that portion of the brain where moral cognitive function takes place.
Dr. U.R. Stuck, senior marketing chief at the Public Parody Center for the Advancement of Newly Discovered Dysfunctional Diseases said, "Much like Tourette's syndrome, 'I.E.D.' concerns a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes hundreds, perhaps even thousands of individuals to lie, steal and cheat while completely convinced that they have done nothing wrong."
The study was based on a series of nationwide interviews and blood tests of more than 522 CEOs, politicians, athletes and others involved in one or more ethics-related transgressions. The research was funded by the group Special Ways of Finding Excuses, a nondenominational, political/corporate action committee based in the Cayman Islands.
The findings show the little-studied disorder is much more common than previously thought. "It seems to be particularly demonstrative in that segment of society involving money, power and professional sporting events," Dr. Stuck said. "We have documented an abnormally large percentage of IEDs in and around Washington, D.C., Wall Street and major league baseball events around the country."
Defense attorneys for convicted Enron honcho Jeff Skilling commented, "We never thought of this before. It's a whole new ball game for us in the appeal process."
In a similar statement, former Louisiana Representative William Jefferson said, "It makes perfect sense. And all this time, people thought I was only interested in the money."
Following the announcement by Mr. Skilling's lawyers, attorneys for WorldCom's Bernard Ebbers, Tyco's Dennis Kozlowski, and former Senator Larry Craig announced that they are all in the process of filing new appeals.
However, the news is not so good for others. Author and ethics specialist Jim Lichtman is reported to have lost a number of new and potential clients as a direct result of the study. "Everybody's cancelled on me! I had contracts with a whole host of Wall Street companies," Lichtman cried. "But rather than sign up for much-needed ethics training, now they're all waiting around for some magic pill they can take. I've had to return almost $1 million in deposits. It's disgusting!"
In a related story, a small fight broke out shortly after the announcement between the "road rage" people and the "ethics rage" scientists - each one claiming the acronym "I.E.D." A group of Marines, on leave from Iraq, joined the fracas claiming "I.E.D." should be exclusive to military usage regarding the deadly "Improvised Explosive Device." However, car manufacturer Toyota has weighed in saying those other terms infringe on their right to use "Integrated Electric Drive" for their Prius hybrid electric car.
The study has yet to determine the exact cause of the disorder. "It could be genetic," Dr. Stuck says, "but there's strong evidence to suggest that it is transmitted from person to person, much like the Bird Flu. If that's the case, we could be looking at a whole new pandemic."
Dr. Stuck advises anyone with a predisposition for prevarication, rationalization, creative accounting or an inflated batting average to avoid contact with individuals who are known liars and cheaters, at least until all the evidence has been closely examined.
Jim Lichtman's highly ethical commentaries can usually be found at www.ethicsStupid.com on other days, as well as April 1st.