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Ethical Decision Making – Michael G. McMillan PhD., CFA, CPA


On Monday, June 24, we received Michael McMillan, Director of Ethics Education of the CFA Institute, in a conference co-organized by CFA Society Uruguay, WTC Montevideo and CAIU (Chamber of Investment Advisors of Uruguay)

“Ethics is doing the right thing when no one else is watching, even when doing the wrong thing is legal,” explained McMillan to start his presentation, which was focused on the practical analysis of real cases that finance professionals face in their careers.

Ethics is an important part of CFA Institute’s global mission and a hallmark of its members, he continued, for that, education plays a fundamental part. “As Investments Professionals we are stewards of our clients’ money. They are entrusting that money to us and in return they expect us to carefully and responsibly manage it solely in their best interest”.

Through interactive activities McMillan involved the audience so they could reflect on common challenges that professionals face before reaching conclusions. “There is a difference between unethical people and unethical behavior. Most of the time we make decisions outside of ethics not because we are ‘bad people’ but because of psychological, social or organizational factors”, he explained. Therefore, while legal standards are a basic rule for professionals, ethics aims at something else: “Ethics has a higher standard: not what we can or cannot do but what we should or should not do”. In short, it has to do with the mission and vision of CFA Institute and is summarized in: “Let’s hold ourselves to a higher standard “.


Dr. McMillan joined CFA Institute in October of 2008 after more than a decade as a professor of accounting and finance at Johns Hopkins University’s Carey School of Business and George Washington University’s School of Business. Prior to pursuing a career in academia, he was a securities analyst and portfolio manager at Bailard, Biehl, and Kaiser and Merus Capital Management in San Francisco, California.

As the Director, Ethics Education, Dr. McMillan is responsible for creating and developing educational content for CFA Institute members and investment professionals in ethics and professional standards. He is also responsible for providing Ethical Decision-Making Workshops to pension plan trustees, investment professionals, regulators, and university students.

Prior to joining CFA Institute, Dr. McMillan served in a variety of volunteer capacities. He was a member of the CFA Council of Examiners for 10 years, and a grader for the CFA Level II and Level III exams for 12 years. In addition, he was the Vice President and Treasurer of the CFA Society of Washington, DC.

Currently, Dr. McMillan is the Treasurer and a member of the board of directors of the Alexandria Police Foundation, which provides resources to Alexandria police officers that improve officer performance, morale, and effectiveness. He is also the treasurer and a member of the board of directors of the Friends of Fort Dupont Ice Arena, a nonprofit organization, which provides free figure skating, ice hockey, speedskating and synchronized skating lessons to underprivileged children in the Washington, DC area. Dr. McMillan is also on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Business Research and a member of the Society for Business Ethics.

Dr. McMillan has a PhD in accounting and finance from George Washington University, an MBA from Stanford University, and BA from the University Pennsylvania. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), a Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional (CCEP), a Chartered Investment Counselor (CIC), and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).