Mark Pincus recently cut off the scamsters who supply his company with revenue. But before he bowed to controversy, the Facebook games merchant was more cavalier about corporate morality, even griping about his "bullshit" Harvard ethics class and idiot classmates.
Amid withering press from TechCrunch and other outlets, the Zynga CEO has finally removed scammy commercial offers from his company's online games, like Mafia Wars and Farmville. That's nice. But maybe the whole scandal could have been avoided if he'd taken a less skeptical take on his Harvard Business School ethics class. From his 2006 blog post about the class:
The school had this bullshit 3 week class called 'ethics' which we all took together at the outset of the program - guess it was to make sure we all had at least heard the term a few times and might feel more comfortable even using it...
Pincus goes on to tell how his amoral, investment-banker classmates defended a banker who left a sick Indian man behind to die in order to finish climbing a Himalayan mountain the banker had long wanted to conquer. Pincus accused his classmates of moral bankruptcy and became a black sheep, he says.
He was also aghast when a fellow student got off with a slap on the wrist after he was caught stuffing the ballot box in an election to head the school's Finance Club. Pincus thought he would be expelled or at least suspended for a year.
I'd soo love to know where that kid's career went and what he's doing today. He must be a major leader as he soo gets our system.
Pincus ended his blog post on an optimistic, pro-ethics note, saying that "this century's newest success stories" like Google, Bill Gates and eBay "are about authentic people taking responsibility and serving all stakeholders," i.e. acting ethically, donating money to charity, etc. Despite this conclusion, Pincus soon found himself on a darker path; he was soon doing "every horrible thing in the book to... get revenues right away" at Zynga, he told fellow entrepreneurs at a mixer earlier this year.
Said mixer wasn't the first time Pincus gave up a sleazy vibe; check out the tweets below from entrepreneur and former Valleywagger Alaska Miller. Apparently Pincus' ethics were derailed some time after he wrote that "authentic people" are the bright future of American business. It's hard to know whether to the blame that stumble on Pincus' obvious cynicism toward his Harvard ethics class — or on his failure to cling to his cynical conclusions more tightly through the years.
(Top pic: Pincus, by Joi Ito)