Ethical Case Studies: Ethics should play a large role in the decision-making process. Think about the important items and ethical questions raised throughout this course in class discussion and reading assignments. When making an ethical decision there are a lot of factors to take into consideration. Consider the following steps that should go into making an ethical decision:
• Assess the situation. What are you being asked to do? Is it illegal? Is it unethical? Who might be harmed?
• Identify the stakeholders and consider the situation from their point of view. For example, consider the point of view of the company’s employees, top management, stockholders, customers, suppliers, and community.
• Consider the alternatives you have available to you and how they affect the stakeholders:
o duties, rights, and principles
o implications for personal integrity and character
• How does the action make you feel about yourself? How would you feel if your actions were reported tomorrow in the Wall Street Journal (or your daily newspaper)? How would you explain your actions to your mother or to your 10-year-old child?
• Make a decision. This might involve going to your boss or to a neutral third party (such as an ombudsman or ethics committee). Know your values and your limits. If the company does nothing to rectify the situation, do you want to continue working for the company?
• Monitor outcomes. How did the decision work out? How did it turn out for all concerned? If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently?
o Is this decision fair?
o Will I feel better or worse about myself after I make this decision?
o Does this decision break any organizational rules?
o Does this decision break any laws?
o How would I feel if this decision was broadcast on the news?
For each of the two Case Study assignments research one of the provided cases, or research another similar example.
Individual Ethical Decisions COMPLETED!!!
Use one of the following examples or research another similar example of individual ethical decisions:
• Pierre Omidyar: eBay creator that has contributed $100 million to the Tufts University Micro Finance Fund. His goal is to give economic power to poor people around the world through small business loans.
• Sherron Watkins: a former VP of Enron, (whistle blowing) reported the accounting irregularities that led to the discovery of staggering corporate fraud.
• Stanley O’Neal: working for Merrill Lynch, which began racking up losses that led to its collapse, he announced his retirement and walked away with a compensation package worth more than $160 million.
• John A Thain: as the ousted Merrill Lynch executive, he agreed to reimburse Federal bailout recipient Bank of America (under pressure from President Obama) for an expensive renovation of his office that included an $87,000 area rug and a $35,000 commode.
• Bill Gates: Microsoft CEO, established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (the largest US charity that applies his famous problem solving skills to global health, global development, and American education.
• John Mackey: from 1999 to 2006, as CEO of Whole Foods, he posted thousands of anonymous comments on Yahoo! Finance hyping his company and occasionally attacking rival Wild Oats in the hope to purchase it at an advantageous price.
Company Ethical Decisions
Use one of the following examples or research another similar example of company ethical decisions:
• Clorox: in 2008 it introduced a line of “99% natural” cleaning products called Green Works. It was the first such effort from a major consumer products company and first time the Sierra Club endorsed a product line by allowing the use of its logo on the labels. In return, Clorox makes an annual contribution to the Sierra Club, the amount based on the total Green Works sales.
• Tyson foods: has been accused of unfair business practices, unsavory labor and environmental practices and controversial chicken-raising protocols. However, in 2009 the factory gave nearly 11% of its profits to charity.
• Kraft: took a pledge to stop advertising unhealthy foods to young children. It plans on eliminating in-school marketing and drop some unhealthy snacks from school vending machines.
• Enron/Arthur Anderson (now defunct): Enron collapsing in 2001 due to massive accounting fraud and Arthur Anderson participated in the scandal by masking the issues and shredding documents containing potential evidence costs investors millions of dollars.
• Bank of America: after receiving $45 billion in taxpayer bailout funds, they sponsored a five day carnival like event outside the 2009 Super Bowl stadium called the NFL Experience. The bank defended the event as an effective growth strategy while critics blasted it as an abuse of taxpayer dollars.
• Toyota: in 2009 it stonewalled for months before admitting to a defect in some of its most popular cars that appeared to cause fatal accidents due to unintended acceleration. Even after announcing a large-scale recall, they waited five days before halting new sales on models affected by the recall.