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Company's Ethical and legal decisions

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ETHICAL DILEMMAS

Below are several situations that present ethical questions in a business.

Discuss each situation:
(a) from the strictly legal viewpoint
(b) from a moral and ethical viewpoint, and
(c) from the point of view of what is best in the long run for the company.

Be sure to consider both short and long range consequences. Also look at each situation from the perspective of all stakeholders (groups concerned: customers, stockholders, employees, government, and community).

1. A disgruntled employee of your major competitor mails top secret information or new product samples to you. Do you begin to do a dance on your desktop or do you immediately mail the information back to your competitor? What would you do?
a. Throw the plans or secrets away.
b. Send them to your research department for analysis.
c. Notify your competitor about what is going on.
d. Call the FBI.
e. Other?

2. You are the general manager of a regional chemical company. In the course of producing your bulk chemicals, large amounts of particles and smoke are emitted through your plant's smokestack. The level of pollutants is below current EPA regulations, and you are violating no laws, but neighborhood groups are complaining about minor health problems caused by the smoke. After investigating numerous alternatives, you find the most effective solution would be to install a "scrubber" system which will remove 90 percent of the pollutants and ash. Cost: $1 million. Do you install the system?

3. You are the vice president of a beer company in a state which sets the legal drinking age at twenty one. Your boss asks you to organize a lobbying effort to have the drinking age reduced to eighteen.

4. You are an accountant in a large firm. Your boss tells you to use a controversial accounting practice which will make the company's profits seem higher. She tells you it is only to impress stock holders and will not be used in statements submitted to the IRS.

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Solution Preview

Below matrix identifying all the issues and concerns. Make a table composed of four columns. The first to the last columns should be labeled as Situation, Legal viewpoint, Ethical Viewpoint, and What is best for the company, respectively.

Situation
A disgruntled employee of your major competitor mails top secret information or new product samples to you. Do you begin to do a dance on your desktop or do you immediately mail the information back to your competitor? What would you do?
a. Throw the plans or secrets away.
b. Send them to your research department for analysis.
c. Notify your competitor about what is going on.
d. Call the FBI.
e. Other?

Legal viewpoint
This is a violation of the Uniform Trade Secret Act. The law punishes severely anybody found guilty of unauthorized disclosure or sharing of an "information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program device, method, technique, or process".
Another statute that will be violated here is the U.S. Intellectual Property Rights law on copyright infringement.
Penalties ranges from Injunctions, actual and statutory damages,
cost and attorney's fees

Ethical viewpoint
Anywhere you look at it this is actually unethical and improper.

What is best for the company
In the short run this is beneficial to the company in terms of countering and conquering competition. In the long run, this is not good for the industry because there will be less competition. Competition is the driving force for creating quality products.
Notifying your competitor about the breach is a logical thing to do. Questionable acts are not kept ...

Solution Summary

The solution discusses four (4) situations requiring legal and ethical decisions. The solution has a matrix composed of four columns identifying all the issues and concerns. This matrix is attached.

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