Dear Real Estate Ethicist,

I run ads in the Sunday real estate section of the local newspaper. I am a mortgage broker and I run the advertisement in a directory of listings of interest rate quotes. Admittedly, I put rates in there that are a tad lower than we really charge. Everyone does it and the newspaper knows it, but does not care. The problem is the directory looks like it is real and I know borrowers think it is on the level, not an ad. But I get a ton of leads. Why does this bother me? –Befuddled by deceit

Dear Befuddled,

Did you know that Don Quixote, the intrepid character created by novelist Miguel de Cervantes in 1605, was the first to say, “Honesty is the best policy?” For the stumbling, bumbling Quixote, integrity was more important than success.

Indeed, this is exactly the same issue that recently tripped up some prosperous, now publicly humiliated, corporate titans like Martha Stewart, Frank Quattrone and ex-Tyco chairman Dennis Kozlowski.

I am not saying that the choice is between Quixote and these three. Indeed, many people in business, even famous people, make a good living without cheating. –Real Estate Ethicist


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