Law and Love: Competitors or Twins?

Christoph Stückelberger, Geneva Agape Foundation Newsletter No. 1

Compliance Officers have nowadays very powerful positions in banks and companies. They have to check the activities of business whether they are compliant with national and international laws, rules and regulations as well as internal standards and control mechanisms. As the Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) of the OECD http://www.oecd.org/tax/transparency/automaticexchangeofinformation.htm) , the new transparency standard for the finance sector and especially on tax matters, came into effect on 1 January 2017 in many countries, the finance sector is quit nervous to comply with new standards and avoid any mistake. Around 50 countries will have soon, in September 2017, the first information exchange about tax matters. China and Switzerland are among those countries who will implement the standard as of January 2018. This standard leads to the understandable attitude of banks and especially compliance officers: “Better cautious than courageous”. This is the new policy. One reason for this is that compliance officers as well as leaders in companies are more personally liable than before and the chance/danger to detect tax evasion will clearly increase. This is a good and needed development as part of the strategies to reduce tax evasion, to overcome corruption, fraud, money laundering, terrorism financing, cybercrime and other ethically and economically destructive business transactions. Expanded IT technologies, data collection, big data and AEOI go hand in hand.

Laws and regulations from local to national and international level are important and force human beings to behave more ethically since based on free will it often does not happen. Law is so to say the implementing and enforcing arm and hand of ethics.

But since human beings have (normally) to arms and hands, the other arm and hand has to be mentioned: love (in Greek Agape, the keyword in the name of Geneva Agape Foundation). Law is empty and short-sighted if it is not combined with love. Law can degrade to a mechanical mechanism like a machine which fulfils its task in a schematic way. Love on the other side always puts the human being, the other in the centre of consideration. Love wants to do not only the things right, but the right things. Love is combined with compassion, care and – in Christian understanding – also with forgiveness, which means offering a second chance after failure. “Better courageous than cautious” is the motto of love. Love takes risks, because it wants to improve lives and cares for the weaker.

Love therefore is key for human activities, even in overcoming tax evasion, fraud and crime. Love is the soft power of ethics. It brings a deep and long term, sustainable motivation to do the right things and do them right. But love needs law for enforcing and implementing love in a binding, reliable and not only subjective, spontaneous way.

Law and Love compete with each other to have the better, more effective and more sustainable way to overcome unethical behaviour. But more than competitors, Law and Love are twins: they need each other, they are from the same family (of values to improve the world). They have different roles but they need each other. Only with love, law becomes human. Only with law, love becomes binding.

This is the commitment of the Geneva Agape Foundation: to strengthen values-driven entrepreneurship, philanthropy and investments by acting out of love while respecting and strengthening the law and rule of law.