Alistair is a chief legal officer in a well-respected company involved in making lifesaving drugs. He has been asked by the board of the company to investigate rumors of price-fixing within the firm’s European offices. In the course of him doing his mandated duty, he encounters a breach in the operation of one of his firms, involving a Bosnia contract in which a very large commission was paid to Romanian distributor to deliver the kits into Bosnia.
Problem statement: Alistair as a chief legal officer has to make a decision whether this is a form of bribe and if so, whether to write a report to the board of the firm about the same.
In coming up with the decision as to whether to pay a large commission to the Romanian distributor, the manager must have been faced with the challenge to make up a decision that would affect four parties. Namely, the Bosnia militia, the Bosnian people, the distributors’ company drivers, and him.
First, By accepting to pay a large commission to the distributor company, the manager in one way or the other is facilitating the fundings for the Bosnia militia. In offering them bribes through the many roadblocks placed by the militia, he would be an indirect financier to the operations of the militia within Bosnia. Secondly, the manager has to determine the fate of the Romanian distributors’ drivers. Without equipping the drivers with the necessary ‘gratuities’ that the Bosnia militia will require at the road blocks, he will be endangering their lives as evidenced previously. Furthermore, the manager would have had the possibility of his offer turned down by the distributors if he would have not accepted to pay the large commission owing to the danger possed to the drivers lives while in Bosnia. Thirdly, turning down the offer to pay the necessary large commission of which part of it will be used as a ‘gratuity’ to the militia to allow entry of the medical kits in Bosnia, the manager woul have denied Bosnian people the necessary medication of which they are in dire need of. Lastly, accepting to pay the large commission, the manager will be breaking the ethics of the his workplace by breaking the company’s regulations. These he is well aware that could cause problems to him as an employ of a firm that is rooted on very strong ethics policy.
In resolving ethical dilemmas there are two major approaches that philosophers adhere to when it comes in handling ethical dilemmas. One school of thought focuses on the practical consequences of our action, while the other focuses on the action itself. In handling ethical dilemmas, Alistair has to think of these two approaches as complementary strategies that will be used in analyzing and resolving the problem at hand. To really solve ethical dilemmas in a business environment, Alistair has to be aware of the existing laws involved and must be ready to obey them. That may not mean that it is always wrong to break an existing law. On the contrary, in solving ethical dilemmas in a business sense, the laws established are usually taken to have established at least a bare minimum for how one should conduct themselves while doing business.In a scenario where a business regularly breaks the law, it becomes an anti-social force within the society and hence, at that point, there would be no difference between the business and an organized crime no matter how much money’s are involved.Alistair has to analyze the consequencesassociated with the actions being investigated that have brought about an ethical dilemma, that is, the benefit and harm involved and at the same time consider both the positive and negative consequences of the benefits and harm caused.In a completely different perspective, Alistair shouldconcentrate also on the actions without the involvement of the consequences. He should analyze how well do they measure up to the moral principles the firm is established on, like honesty,fairness, respecting people’s rights and recognizing the vulnerability of individuals that are less fortunate in respect to others.He should also consider how far the actions being considered “cross the line” in light of simple decency to an important ethical principle. If there exists a conflict of principles or rights of individuals, he should be in a position to determine which principle can be termed as ‘more important’ than the others, since overly he should determine which action will cause more serious problems to the firm.
According to teleological ethics, actions have no basic ethical character, but assume their moral status from the results that flow from them, that is, the moral character of actions depends on the extent to which they hurt or help people. Those that harm are considered “wrong” and those that have not been “right”.Therefore, something is considered as morally good when it produces a greater balance of pleasure over pain for a considerable large number of people involved, the greatest good of the greatest number (White, 1993). With this, as a base for an argument, the manager can be said to have been ethically right when he considered the need of the Bosnian people in terms of medical attention. The medical kits reaching them would have acted for the common good of the Bosnian people. In comparison,the benefits over the cost outweigh the consequences involved, thus, these can be said to be a morally upright action (Weiss 2003,p. 80).
According to another school of thought, deontological ethics, actions are either classified as inherentlyright (good) or wrong (bad) and have intrinsic moral value, something that teleological thinkers blatantly refute. These are independent of the final outcome of the actions. This outlines the fundamental moral law that determines the ethical character of an action without regard to its consequences. The basis of such a moral view being that it is independent of human nature or the circumstancesin which he is placed, but solely dependent on the concepts of pure reasoning. For an action to be right, it must be done for the sake of a moral law and not simply conforming to a moral law. Further, the only thing that is inherently good is one that follows reasons’ guidance and is an act of duty, what could be termed as goodwill.Goodwill chooses an action to do simply because it’s the right thing to do, and not because it is inclined to do some good deed nor the outcome entails positive consequences.Deontological ethics emphasize the need for one to act in such a manner that at the same time he/she wills that that be made a universal law of nature (the law of maxims by Kant). In view of such a school of thought, the manager can as well be said to have been out rightly wrong ethically in relation to the militia group and the drivers. In accepting to offer favors in the form of monies given to the militia group to gain access to Bosnia, the manager willbe acting in such a way that funds the operations of the militia group, thus causing more harm to the people of Bosnia. The benefits of the medical kits are short lived as compared to the continued harm the militia will inflict to the people. In addition, the firm was not going to benefit in any way in that, the little profits made by the contract they engaged with the charitable organization would have still been used for the large commission given to the distributor.
The first solution would be to blow the whistle on the manager by writing a detailed report to the board of the firm evidencing the irregularities made by the manager in the Bosnia contract. This will result in harm to the manager and embarrassment to the charitable organization.
Strength: By blowing the whistle on the manager, it will deal with the possibility of any future bribery occurrences within the firm which will deteriorate the firms profit making. It will act as a warning and the stand on the board strong ethics policy (Institute of Global Ethics, 2013).
Weakness: This could as well cause divisions within the firm’s management in the form of those whose opinion is consistent with what the manager did and those who oppose the manager’sdeals. These would have led to a go slow within the firm’s management and employees.
Opportunities: This would have enhanced the firm’s image by showing it as an ethically oriented firm.
Threats:As much as the decision will create the company’s image, it will also act to deteriorate the firm’s relations with other possiblepotential firms when it comes to contracts. These will cause a reduction of the firm’s profit making ventures.
An alternative solution would be to overlook the manager’s unorthodox contract with a warning to the manager to follow the organizational ethics when it comes to contracts. Therefore, Alistair should fail to right a report to the board.
Strength: It will enhance the employees’ participation within the firm’s system. Since moral choices are unavoidable in business, making the ethical component of business decision-making explicit will enhance business (Sternberg in Megone 2002, p. 28).
Weakness: These could create loopholes within the firm’s system whereby the employees could also use unorthodox dealings that involves bribery in contracts.
Opportunities: This would enhance the relationship between the firm and the charitable organization and thus be a possible partner in future contracts of the charitable organization.
Threats: This will mean a negative effect on the company’s image when the information will be leaked out. It would further causean embarrassmentto the charitable organization.
Alistair should blow the whistle on the manager’s irregularities in the Bosnia contract, and further advice the board on the matter through a report.
Step 1: Alistair should check all his facts and document them. In addition, he should document all ethical issues involved.
Step 2: In the light of legal system do the facts he has met legal justification to carry out his choice of decision? He should also identify any fundamental principles that have been affected. He should also seek professional or legal advice.
Step 3:Identify the parties affected within the system and suggest ways in which to deal with them.
Step 4: Write a comprehensive report to the board of directors. Through this he refuses to be associated with the conflict.
Megone, C. 2002. “Two Aristotelian approaches to business ethics”. In Megone, C. and
Robinson, S. J. (Eds). Case Studies in Business Ethics. London: Routledge .
White, T. (1993). Business Ethics: A Philosophical Reader. “Ethics”, Chapter 1. New York:
Weiss, J. W. (2003). Business Ethics–A Stakeholder and Issues Management Approach. Mason,
Ohio: Thomson, South-Western.