As you walk through the doors of Harvard Business School, on the crest which sits atop the building reads ‘Veritas’, the Latin word for truth.
The word truth is recurrent through many business school and university mottos. The truth, however, can be bent, twisted, and even discarded.
Whether for personal gain or for self-preservation, it’s not uncommon for those in power to be, let’s say, economic with the truth. For certain MBA grads, this controversial choice can be the key to their success, and more often than not, the instrument of their failure.
Here’s four MBA grads who have made the world a worse place:
1. President George W. Bush, Harvard Business School, Class of 1975
Before the turn of the millennium, the name ‘Bush’ was uttered with reverence and respect, one of the most powerful families in American politics. The 43rd President of the USA, however, won’t be remembered in the same way.
As a young man, Dubya earned his MBA at Harvard Business School—to date, the only POTUS with an MBA. Following in the footsteps of his father, George was drawn into politics, earning the Republican nomination and, controversially, winning the 2000 election for the White House.
George W. Bush’s presidency was overshadowed largely by his War on Terror, a military campaign based mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan, triggered in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The conflict killed over 200,000 Iraqis and around 7,000 US troops, and is largely blamed for the instability which paved the way for terrorist groups like ISIS.
George’s reputation was harmed even further by his response, or lack thereof, to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, still the deadliest and most costly hurricane in the US.
His approval ratings are ranked as among the lowest of any US President—although they have improved significantly in the last few years. The grass is always greener…
2. Jeffrey Skilling, Harvard Business School, Class of 1979
In 2001, one of America’s largest energy companies filed for bankruptcy with a debt of over $60 billion and leaving thousands unemployed. The company was Enron, and the man largely responsible was Jeffrey Skilling.
Jeffrey’s arrogance which led to Enron’s collapse seems to predate his time at Harvard, claiming that, in his MBA interview, he proudly stated, “I’m f**king smart,” in response to one of the questions.
As CEO of Enron, Jeffrey adopted a controversial mark-to-market accounting strategy which created a huge gap between predicted value and actual value of deals. Long story short—he covered up billions of dollars of debt which led to the company’s collapse.
Jeffrey had his comeuppance, spending 12 years in federal prison, while his 20,000+ employees remain largely unremunerated.
READ MORE: 5 Famous MBAs Who Have Changed The World
3. Andrew Wheeler, George Mason University, Class of 1998
For a presidential administration which has consistently ignored the impending threat of climate change, Andrew Wheeler is a fitting appointment.
Andrew, who has links to oil and gas, has called climate change: “not the greatest crisis.” As the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, he has echoed the Donald Trump climate change denial through his position of power.
He famously worked for Senator Jim Inhofe, a renowned climate change denier, who once brought a snowball into the senate as proof that global warming wasn’t real.
While his MBA from George Mason University led to a career in politics, his background as a coal lobbyist suggests that he is perhaps not the best person for his current job.
4. Steve Bannon, Harvard Business School, Class of 1985
UKIP, Trump, Bolsonaro, Le Pen. Across the world, politics has seen a sharp rise of far-right and nationalist political agendas. At the center of this movement lies Steve Bannon.
Steve was set up for an illustrious career after his MBA from Harvard in 1985, which followed nearly a decade spent in the Navy. His career path wormed through investment banking, television producing (including hit sitcom Seinfeld), and finally co-founding the far-right website Breitbart.
Breitbart pushes a racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic agenda, becoming, in Steve Bannon’s words, ‘A platform for the alt-right’.
Steve's biggest achievement, for better or for worse, is putting President Trump in the White House, serving as his senior counselor for his campaign and the first eight months of his presidency.
There are many who would say that Cambridge Analytica, the big data political consultancy which Steve co-founded, was largely responsible for the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Steve Bannon, after several years in the spotlight, has been sacked by Trump, deposed as chair of Breitbart, and had Cambridge Analytica shut down. His MBA, it would seem, could only get him so far.
A recent trend in business schools has been a lean towards responsible management and business ethics—teaching leaders, essentially, to be good and do good. Let’s hope the era of business mis-management is coming to an end, and hope that MBAs continue to produce more leaders to be proud of.