Friends should seek advice in business ventures
The National Spiritual Assembly has become concerned in recent years about the entangled disputes in which Bahá’ís become involved when their business ventures go awry. Therefore, it offers the friends the following counsel:
The cases that have been brought to the National Assembly's attention invariably involve Bahá’ís who had the best of intentions when they initially made plans to start a business or made a business deal of some sort with another Bahá’í or group of Bahá’ís.
Feeling that they could trust their Bahá’í partners many believers have neglected to seek the advice of an attorney and have entered into the venture on the basis of oral agreements or inadequately written statements that later were misunderstood or misinterpreted. Consequently, when differences arose, there was no real way to resolve the problem, since the parties often could not agree on what the original terms of the venture were.
The National Spiritual Assembly cannot stress strongly enough the importance of establishing all business dealings on a firm legal foundation, whether or not they involve other Bahá’ís. This applies equally to loan transactions.
The National Assembly also has noted that the friends, in their eagerness to gain large and quick returns on their investments, sometimes enter into a speculative business ventures without legal counsel. When these ventures fail, as they sometimes do, the friends feel cheated. The believers must understand that speculation entails risks, and should be prepared to take the risks along with the rewards.
Another factor to be considered is Bahá’í ethical standards. Shoghi Effendi's discussion of rectitude of conduct in The Advent of Divine Justice, pp. 18-24, is recommended for all individuals who are considering a business venture.
Taking the precaution of seeking competent legal advice, having a realistic understanding of the risks involved, and trying to keep one's dealings in line with Bahá’í ethical standards not only saves everyone from considerable grief later on, but prevents either the Local Spiritual Assembly or the National Spiritual Assembly from having to spend its energies trying to resolve disputes that could have been avoided in the first place. It should also be understood that the institutions of the Faith are limited in their ability to resolve financial disputes, since final authority in the U.S. for resolving such disputes rests with the civil courts.
The extension of loans by Assemblies and individuals can also cause problems. Individuals who are habitually unemployed or who are in the habit of borrowing from others often take advantage of the generosity of Bahá’ís, who lend them money or give them hospitality, sometimes at considerable sacrifice. When a dispute does arise, the friends should call to mind these words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:
"Endeavor ye as much' as possible that differences may not arise in the affairs; let not every insignificant matter become the cause of disagreement. If such conditions exist the end will be complete dispersion. The believers and maid-servants of the Merciful must all consider how to produce harmony, so that the unity of the human world may be realized, not that every wholly unimportant subject become conducive to differences of opinion. "It is my hope that the friends and the maidservants of America become united on all subjects and not disagree at all. If they agree upon a subject, even though it be wrong, it is better than to disagree and be in the right, for this difference will produce the demolition of the divine foundation. Though one of the parties may be in the right and they disagree that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs, but if they agree and both parties are in the wrong, as it is in unity the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right." (Bahá’í World Faith, p. 411)