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In law, misconduct is wrongful, improper, or unlawful conduct motivated by premeditated or intentional purpose or by obstinate indifference to the consequences of one's acts. Misconduct can be considered an unacceptable or improper behavior, especially for a professional person. Two categories of misconduct are sexual misconduct and official misconduct. In connection with school discipline, "misconduct" is generally understood to be student behavior that is unacceptable to school officials but does not violate criminal statutes, including absenteeism, tardiness, bullying, and inappropriate language. (Special Education Dictionary, 2003, LRP Publications) Misconduct in the workplace generally falls under two categories. Minor misconduct is seen as unacceptable but is not a criminal offense (e.g. being late, faking qualifications). Gross misconduct can lead to dismissal (e.g. stealing or sexual harassment).

The failure to understand and manage ethical risks played a significant role in the financial crisis. The difference between bad business decisions and business misconduct can be hard to determine, and there is a thin line between the ethics of using only financial incentives to gauge performance and the use of holistic measures that include ethics, transparency and responsibility of stakeholders. From CEO's to traders and brokers, all-too-tempting lucrative financial incentives existed for performance in the financial industry.

The past widespread financial misconduct led to a call for financial reform. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was passed in 2010 to increase accountability and transparency in the financial industry and protect consumers from deceptive financial practices. Domestic inquiry A domestic inquiry typically follows a ‘show cause’ letter, which is sent to the employee requesting an explanation for the alleged misconduct. If the response is not satisfactory, the employer will move to the more formal domestic inquiry. Domestic inquiry should be carried out as soon as possible following accusations of misconduct and all activities should be formalized and recorded in full. Legally it is important than the investigation be carried out objectively – the investigating officers, for example, should be unconnected to the incident, and the employee should be given full opportunity to state their own case and present evidence in their favor. Union representatives or colleagues should be allowed to sit in during the process if the employer requests their presence, although the employee can’t insist on legal representation.