Mansharamani Classes

Extending Knowledge

Dr. Mansharamani is a skilled instructor and Lecturer at Yale University in the Program on Ethics, Politics & Economics. In addition to leading executive education seminars on decision-making and asset allocation strategy, he currently teaches “Adventures in Business Ethics” to both undergraduate and graduate students (co-taught with Charles Ellis in 2013) and was responsible for designing and teaching the “Financial Booms and Busts” seminar as part of the Yale College Seminar Program. He is also leading a study group sponsored by the Mossavar Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School on the topic of financial bubbles.


This course is designed to help future leaders develop their abilities to recognize, define, analyze, and resolve ethical dilemmas in the business context. Special emphasis is placed upon having students develop an appreciation for the ambiguity and complexities of the contexts in which decisions are made, as well as an understanding that decision-making criteria often conflict, consequences of choices are unclear, and the lack of a decision can itself be a decision.
The most important issues facing leaders today involve the complex interaction of laws, philosophical concepts, personal values, social norms, and the regularly accepted behaviors of societies, groups, and individuals. Few ethical decisions have easy or obvious answers. Further, good ethical decision-making is not merely about doing no wrong; it is about positive ethics and actually understanding the impact of what leaders say and do will have profound influence on the environment in which others operate.
The course is organized around some of the most pertinent and interesting ethical issues of the day. Topics such as insider trading, manipulative consumer marketing, conflicting objectives in philanthropy, aggressive promotion of financial services, and predatory practices in for-profit education are just some of the topics the course will address. We will explore the ethical challenges leaders face so participants will have an unusual opportunity to prepare for the lonely and exciting tasks of leadership. For each session, an expert will participate in our class discussion and join a group of us for dinner at Mory’s.
Leaders at all levels will surely face a wide variety of ethical issues large and small, usually hidden in the fog of uncertainties wrapped in a package of conflicting personal, organizational, and institutional values, incentives, and motivations. While the course will serve as useful preparation for students interested in further academic work on the topics of management, sociology, decision-making, or ethics, it is also designed to give students an appreciation for the complexities, uncertainties, and responsibilities of leadership. As future leaders, students enrolled in the class will effectively be preparing for the difficulties of actual leadership where stakes are high and conflicting complexity is omnipresent.
This course is intended to provide an overview of extremes (characterized by both extraordinary optimism and severe despair) that have taken place in financial markets. Although the course can best be thought of as a survey, particular attention will be paid to 20th and 21st century events as well as the underlying commonalities that seem to recur in booms and busts.
Although the course is focused upon bubbles, crashes, manias, panics, and crises, it begins by evaluating the academic literature that dismisses the likelihood of these events—namely the efficient market hypothesis. A critical review of the theory is presented, as well as some competing theories. Academic and managerial perspectives are simultaneously evaluated. Possible explanations for the existence of financial extremes are then evaluated (psychological factors, monetary policy, etc.) before the course turns to the ramifications of and policy responses to financial extremes. The goal for the first half of the course will be for the class to develop a multi-disciplinary theoretical framework through which to evaluate and contextualize financial market extremes.
The second half of the course will focus on case studies of financial market booms and busts. Each example will be evaluated via the multidisciplinary theoretical lens developed in the first half of the course. The course concludes with the class collectively developing the “anatomy” of a “typical” financial market extreme. While each of the studied cases will have had unique elements, the objective for the course will be to coalesce these findings into an understanding of the general characteristics that precede, promote, and ultimately reverse bubbles and manias into crashes, panics, or crises. The semester will end with student groups presenting what they believe to be the most likely next “boom-bust” cycle.
While the course will serve as useful preparation for students interested in further academic work on the topic of asset pricing, behavioral finance, or monetary policy, it is also designed to given students an appreciation for the complexities of financial market extremes and policy responses to them. Upon completion of the course, students will be more informed participants in (as investors) and regulators of (as voting citizens) financial markets.