Moral Quandary

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    Feb 28, 2009 8:02 AM GMT
    What would you do if you had just come into a situation - pre-existing:for which you were not responsible - which you thought was nevertheless both immoral and illegal.

    The problem being that if you do expose the problem you will throw hundreds of innocent people out of work, maybe injure hundreds more, and could start a huge scandal in an already shaky economic environment.

    I have put a stop to the problem, but can not expose it, or make reparations without injuring hundreds of innocent people.

    I have already made my decision - not an easy one (It will cost tens of millions of Euros - and required firing a half dozen people), but am curious...What would you do?

    Be honest - how far would you go in order to protect hundreds of innocent employees who depend upon you, at the expense of doing what is right for literally hundreds of 'outsiders'???

    Rob
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    Feb 28, 2009 8:57 AM GMT
    Depends on what the situation is. The scenario you provided is too vague and there are lots of variables that would affect one's decision to expose the scandal or not.
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    Feb 28, 2009 9:02 AM GMT
    The fact pattern is unclear. It’s clear that if you expose the problem, then hundreds of people lose their jobs, hundreds will face possible injury, and the economy will endure another (high-profile?) scandal.

    If you do not expose the problem, what is the outcome? What happens to these “literally hundreds of ‘outsiders’”?

    I tend to assess these situations by (1) comparing the choices’ immediate outcomes, and (2) comparing the choice’s implications for future actors’ expectations (so for example, if someone murders someone, punishing the murderer creates a deterrent effect). Your fact pattern has some partial information on (1), and no information on (2). I’m not one to go cheap by denying a hypothetical, so if you don’t want to provide more information on (2), that’s fine, but you need to clarify (1) since you only hint that exposing the problem harms hundreds of outsiders without saying to what or how.

    (Good to have you back, btw.)
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    Feb 28, 2009 9:18 AM GMT
    Exactly as stated above, we don't know how serious the immorality/illegality is in comparison to the innocents that would be affected, and what span it has, so it's hard to decide. I would probably go for minimizing the total negative effects in general, although deciding on what that minimization would be is also fairly subjective.


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    Feb 28, 2009 9:25 AM GMT
    Satyricon331 saidThe fact pattern is unclear. It’s clear that if you expose the problem, then hundreds of people lose their jobs, hundreds will face possible injury, and the economy will endure another (high-profile?) scandal.

    If you do not expose the problem, what is the outcome? What happens to these “literally hundreds of ‘outsiders’”?

    I tend to assess these situations by (1) comparing the choices’ immediate outcomes, and (2) comparing the choice’s implications for future actors’ expectations (so for example, if someone murders someone, punishing the murderer creates a deterrent effect). Your fact pattern has some partial information on (1), and no information on (2). I’m not one to go cheap by denying a hypothetical, so if you don’t want to provide more information on (2), that’s fine, but you need to clarify (1) since you only hint that exposing the problem harms hundreds of outsiders without saying to what or how.

    (Good to have you back, btw.)


    1 - The immediate outcome is that the public (outsiders) has already been screwed royally - to the tune of millions of Euros - lost incomes, jobs, possibly homes, etc; Yet exposing the problem results in injuring innocent employees - they would lose jobs, income, and bear the false stigma of shame for working for the company: the company would probably be forced into receivership or seized by the governments involved. One more tiny screw in an already shaky marketplace.

    2 - I have forced the BoD to fire the people I thought were involved - as the price for my silence and my personal money going toward trying to make reparations as best as possible: basically bailing out the company. After discussing it with my partner, I have agreed to undertake the debt.

    Yes, if found out, the scandal would definitely make a small public scandal - and probably make the second page of the financial pages, maybe even the WSJ. I am not sure it would go much further - with all the economic and banking scandals already, I think the public has a bit of fatigue.

    R
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    Feb 28, 2009 9:35 AM GMT
    Right or wrong is not relative. It is either right or wrong. If you know something is wrong, you should say it. Regardless of the outcome. If it matters. If it is something that really does not matter to anyone but you, that is different. But if you work for Boeing, and what you know will mean a flaw in a plane, you should say it. Either way, you are wrong to not say it. You know it is wrong. You blogged about it. I assume it is relevant or you would not have brought it up. If it is important and relevant, you should do something about it.
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    Feb 28, 2009 10:10 AM GMT
    ITJock said1 - The immediate outcome is that the public (outsiders) has already been screwed royally - to the tune of millions of Euros - lost incomes, jobs, possibly homes, etc; Yet exposing the problem results in injuring innocent employees - they would lose jobs, income, and bear the false stigma of shame for working for the company: the company would probably be forced into receivership or seized by the governments involved. One more tiny screw in an already shaky marketplace.

    2 - I have forced the BoD to fire the people I thought were involved - as the price for my silence and my personal money going toward trying to make reparations as best as possible: basically bailing out the company. After discussing it with my partner, I have agreed to undertake the debt.

    Yes, if found out, the scandal would definitely make a small public scandal - and probably make the second page of the financial pages, maybe even the WSJ. I am not sure it would go much further - with all the economic and banking scandals already, I think the public has a bit of fatigue.

    R


    I would infer that the immediate outcome would also include preventing the outsiders from recovering damages, and allowing the people you fired to re-enter the job market without having future employers know what they did.

    I gather, from you taking the debt, that over time, the outsiders will recover (edit: at least "as best as possible"*) the losses they will never know they had? If so, and assuming also that the people you fired don’t have a realistic chance of mismanaging other people’s money again, then I would say you did the right thing, especially since you’re righting the wrong behind the scenes in a way that will preserve jobs and help the market.

    That conclusion is somewhat speculative, of course, since I don’t know the exact sense of the likelihoods I would attach to these events (i.e., the chance of these people repeating their mismanagement, etc.) if I were in your position. If those people are just going to go and rip more people off then stopping them might be the bigger priority.

    (*This best possibility would include being better than the possible judicial damages recovered from liquefying the company. If not, then the answer would be even more speculative.)
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    Feb 28, 2009 10:34 AM GMT
    This is such a difficult situation and I don't envy you.

    I do ask that you consider that by exposing it, and people losing their jobs, that the same situation never be able to occur again.

    Secondly if the perpetrators in a financial scam have once again escaped with virtually no consequences - just losing their jobs - do you think you are being complicit.

    Those aren't questions for you to answer, just think about.
  • GQjock

    Posts: 11649

    Feb 28, 2009 12:06 PM GMT
    The situation is still too vague to be able to make a sound judgment in any true form
    It will matter how much YOU are involved or how much responsibility you had in its oversight

    Primarily, if you are implicated in this in any way
    Then you have no choice in bringing it to light
    and in the same vein if you are responsible for these individuals who have done this "immoral and Illegal" action you also then have the responsibility to go to whose ever authority it is to oversee

    On the other hand if you are a third party to this and have no implication whatsoever then you have to weigh what is right and what is wrong because Then it Is relative
    If these people committed something that will cost millions of Euros and hundreds of jobs but if it goes unreported there will be any deaths as a result then without hesitation you must report this
    also if allowing this to go unreported will keep markets to falsely report earnings and allow people to purchase worthless goods or paper ... then you still need to expose it

    the last scenario is if this whole thing has ended for good and will have no further repercussions then and only then is it ok for you to remain silent
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    Feb 28, 2009 1:31 PM GMT
    Obviously, the OP is not Bernie Madoff!! icon_neutral.gif
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    Feb 28, 2009 1:52 PM GMT
    Your post does not indicate if this scandal involves matters of law, in perhaps a government-regulated industry. If so, then concealment may have made you and others, possibly including the BoD, liable to prosecution, even if it was pre-existing.

    If the law prohibits such company problems from being concealed, then you face not only the moral quandary you described, but also the commission of an illegal act. I presume an organization of this size has legal counsel, which I hope you have consulted. In a clear matter of law, you may really have no choice in this, and the question you raise about a moral quandary becomes moot.
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    Feb 28, 2009 2:00 PM GMT
    StudlyScrewRite saidObviously, the OP is not Bernie Madoff!! icon_neutral.gif


    Muh ha ha.
    Bernie's decision got made.


    Seriously though, you've got to consider your position if someone else comes forward to expose this or if it's discovered from outside the company.
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    Feb 28, 2009 6:07 PM GMT
    OY, I'm a details person. But, in this economy, I would do everything legal to save someone's job.
  • HndsmKansan

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    Feb 28, 2009 6:23 PM GMT
    Very difficult situation and I (nor anyone else here) probably can't give you really good recommendations without knowing the details.

    What I can say is this: If this is "illegal", you need to follow the law. You don't want to be painted as a co-conspiritor or held in some degree of liability or guilt. Always follow the law. If you question the legality of this situation, thats is a separate issue.
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    Feb 28, 2009 8:37 PM GMT
    I'm a lover of society. If the burden of the employees' job loss to society is greater than the loss to the the investors (and I would consider such things as bankruptcy, loss of life, health issues and the fate of children in my equation), I would side with the employees. If the loss to the investors is greater (bankruptcy etc.) I would side with the investors.

    Will a government-forced reorganization cause worker job losses, management job losses, board job losses or all of the above? Those on the lower (worker) end of the spectrum tend to have greater difficulty recovering from a financial hit than those on the upper tier.
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    Feb 28, 2009 8:59 PM GMT
    sounds like your orchestrating a cover-up under the guise of "protecting" the innocent and yourself, both from your own view of morality, financial duty to your employees etc, if there has been any illegal activity you need to disclose it, but as stated previously we dont know the nature of your organization, public/private, regulated, type of industry etc.... using the "moral high ground" to justify past activity is inappropriate.

    I think your asking here indicates some feeling that your current course isnt what you believe to be right.