The Companies That Need an Ethical Culture Review

Each day the Barometer muddles through four newspapers and scans in articles that involve ethical issues in government agencies, companies, nonprofits, NGOs, schools, etc. — anywhere humans are because where there are humans there are ethical issues. For futurists, where there are robots designed by humans, there will be ethical issues. The scanning is necessary because items disappear from the Internet. Also, some newspapers, in their online versions, update articles without explanation. Having the original often demonstrates ethical issues on the part of the journalists at the newspapers.

The Barometer is exhausted with the scanning. So, herewith is a plea to several companies, agencies, nonprofits, etc. to get some help. These organizations are in dire need of a review of their ethical culture. The hits just keep coming, yet they cannot seem to grasp that they have an issue. Herewith the Barometer’s list for ethical triage:

Facebook: From the privacy issues to the security breach that went undisclosed to its policies on pulling materials and closing accounts, this is a company struggling to find its way.

Tesla: Now facing a criminal investigation over its production numbers, which follows on the heels of the SEC settlement, which follows on the heels of accounting questions which follows on the heels of the conflicts in its purchase of a solar company run by Elon Musk’s brother– get some help quickly.

Goldman Sachs — with the criminal charges against two Goldman bankers in the Malaysian embezzlement prosecution and all the related and shady Jho Low activities, Goldman topped its previous issues. As the Justice Department phrased it, the Goldman fellows charged were focused on deals–“putting them ahead of the proper operation of its [Goldman’s] compliance functions.” This is a classic cowboy culture that still does not understand what its culture is. And it cannot be fixed with its fancy philanthropic and sustainability efforts.

Google– The “don’t be evil” gang surely struggles with ethical issues, from expanding into China to intolerance for diverse views to hiring practices to secret settlements to walk-outs — who exactly is running this company? An external review of its goings on and a slightly different perspective could help.

University of Maryland: Maryland’s Board of Regents is, in Shakespeare’s apt phrase, a piece of work. It recommended retaining the football coach under whom a player died. The president reversed the decision, but the Board was not pleased. The president agreed to retain the coach, but announced his retirement. Then the Board president resigned. The Board and the University need an external review. Without it, they both lose credibility internally and externally. The strongest and clearest communication any organization comes with this: Whom do you hire? Whom do you fire? Whom do you discipline? Who is quitting? Messages sent and received here, and the culture is affected and/or evidenced by both.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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