WASHINGTON – Work hard. Save your money. Prosper. But most important, be honest in your dealings. That was the advice Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (search) offered Sunday to the graduating class at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.
"It is decidedly not true that 'nice guys finish last,'" Greenspan said in prepared remarks to students at the business school.
"Material success is possible in this world, and far more satisfying, when it comes without exploiting others," Greenspan said. "The true measure of a career is to be able to be content, even proud, that you succeeded through your own endeavors without leaving a trail of casualties in your wake."
A copy of the Fed's chief's commencement address was made available in Washington before the speech.
Greenspan made clear that any economy needs certain laws and regulations, but that trust is crucial in enabling business and the overall economy to function smoothly.
"In virtually all our transactions, whether with customers or with colleagues, with friends or with strangers, we rely on the word of those with whom we do business," he said. "If we could not do so, goods and services could not be exchanged efficiently."
The wave of corporate scandals — including Worldcom, Enron (search) and Tyco — in recent years may lead to a "re-emergence of the value placed by markets on trust and personal reputation in business practice," Greenspan said.
Congress responded to the scandals by passing an anti-fraud law in 2002, known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (search). Greenspan said the law appropriately placed responsibility for certifying the soundness of a company's accounting with its chief executive officer.
"I am surprised that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, so rapidly developed and enacted, has functioned as well as it has," he said.
Greenspan, 79, who is expected to step down from the Fed in early 2006, said he has something in common with the graduates. "Before long, after my term at the Federal Reserve comes to an end, I too will be looking for a job."