In “Homecoming” there was a definite breaking of American law. Avon Barksdale, Stringer Bell, Marlo Stanfield, and others were participating in drug trading and assault. To all intents and purposes, what they did was illegal and un-American. Although they operated a drug trade business, few legitimate businesses would operate under the same terms as them. Nonetheless, there are situations that present themselves to these legitimate organizations that are not necessarily clear cut right or wrong. How do these organizations go about deciding when it is ok to participate in perhaps questionable business– when it is ok to slightly step over the line of the law? I’ve decided to turn a discussion of two different ethical theories to find method for organizations to determine when it is ok to participate in “risky business.”
A little over a week ago I booked a spring break vacation to Cancun, Mexico. It took me a while to choose which tropical destination I wanted to visit, and then even longer to decide on a hotel in my country of choice. The only reason I finally came to a decision was because there was only one week left until spring break, and my friends began demanding I make a choice so we could all book it. When I finally did make a choice, everyone was very relieved…for less than 12 hours.
According to the New York Times, the former president of CountryWide Financial, Stanford L. Kurland, is back in the loan business, but this time seemingly profiting off of his screwups. CountryWide Financial (yes, I know Wikipedia) was one of the largest lenders of U.S. mortgages. Many of its loans were to high risk home owners with variable rate interest rates, that began low and then rose. This loans were then securitized and sold to investors. As people began to to default on their loans, investors did not want to own these securtized loans, ultimately leading CountryWide towards bankruptcy. Bank of America ended up buy CountryWide and has plans to rename it to Bank of America Home Loans in April, probably due to the huge reputational risk that the name CountryWide poses ( Lady Macbeth didn’t even wash her hands that fast). In short, the fall of CountryWide and other similar institutions has created large ripples through the economy. Many heads of banks, like Kurland, sold loans to people who probably should have never owned a home to begin with.
What would you do in the following solution?
Knowing full well that there is scientific proof that there cigarettes are lethal AND nicotine is addictive, would you work for Philip Morris (one of the largest cigarette manufacturers in the U.S.)? Just to make things interesting let’s say that you beginning salary is six figured with a high potential for bonuses.
This question poses an ethical dilemma. On one hand, how can you possibly work to increase the sales of a product that when used “kills” the consumer? Yet, on the other hand, our government and we as a people have decided that cigarette smoking is a legal practice and therefore there is no reason to feel morally unjust in working to advance the widespread use and sales of cigarettes.
Are you curious to know how Enron acted after the World Trade Center Attacks on September 11, 2001? Do you want to know how Enron employees behaved in the less than 3 month time span between the attacks and its December 2, 2001 bankruptcy filing?
Are laws that limit executive compensation simply enough to turn financial institutions and other corporations away from the entrenched norms of exorbitant compensation and bonuses? Before I address this question, let’s consider a hypothetical scenario:
Assume a new law required $500,000 cash salary cap for the top 10% of executives of the company, and also limited the amount of stock options they could be offered in the future. (Sound familiar?) Do you think that Enron’s executives would dutifully comply with this mandate if it were enacted while they were still in existence as a company?
I didn’t know much about John Mackey until I read “The Anarchist’s Cookbook.” Learning about his values, management style, personal lifestyle, and overall beliefs regarding an organization has allowed me to make connections in several different areas. First of all, I don’t mean to criticize, but I am legitimately confused as to why he is a vegan based on values (as opposed to preference) when the company he owns offers animal products. The article states that, “He’s now a vegan, on the principal that all food causes harm to the animals that produce it.” Obviously offering animal products is crucial to helping them stay afloat and turn a profit, but the article also says that Mackey is not interested in money, so why didn’t he just remove himself from the business altogether?