Since the beginning of creation, wrongdoing has been somewhat ingrained into human behavior. Even as children we allow curiosity to get us into trouble and we fib to avoid punishment. However, just because wrongdoing has been embedded into the interworking’s of human flesh does not make it tolerable or moral. Bluffing when a spouse asks how he or she looks in a hideous outfit in order to spare feelings is far different from a car salesman conjuring up a tale about a “like new vehicle” with serious problems that is in fact bound to break down at any moment. Society has exploited wrongdoing in business with justifications relating to business games and references to poker. Many organizations actually condone poor business ethics in an effort to get ahead and stand out. However, wrongdoing is business negligence. If one immoral business act is condoned, where do we draw the line? Businesses such as Enron condone wrongdoing, thriving for a short time and eventually crashing and burning; the film The Smartest Guys in the Room demonstrates this very notion.
In some cases, wrongdoing may bring about status, promotions and sales, but is it really a good practice in business? As an example, bluffing is acceptable in junior high school romance and poker games. But bluffing is now considered ethical routine in business such as politics and certain law practices. Corporate business often justifies wrongdoing through the law. This is principle-based ethics — if something is not illegal, than it must be alright. For example, the goal of a defending attorney is primarily to keep his or her client from criminal conviction, whether the truth is hidden, altered or fabricated. “Everyone from the judge down takes it for granted that the job of the defendant’s attorney is to get his client off, not to reveal the truth” (Carr 31). However, let’s say a murderer is kept free by an unethical attorney with promotion, money and publicity in his or her best interest. The bluffing in this instance benefits the attorney and the criminal client…however a whole community and potential nation is placed at risk by this practice of bluffing. I like to refer to a popular motto in life, “The truth will set you free.” If a person is truly innocent then the evidence will prove that, thus keeping the defendant out of prison. An attorney cannot ethically bluff for an outcome in his or her own favor.
Politics is another dirty line of work that tends to get wrapped up in misleading bluffs and lies. During election time, commercials and debates air on television in order to convince the nation to “vote for me.” In an attempt to gain popularity and votes an electoral candidate might fib and blur the truth on important and controversial issues. Yet I think the best leaders have been honest and humble, with strong beliefs and values. Those who tiptoe around certain issues do not end up selling their true agenda and in the end only end up disappointing the vast majority. We end up in a fiscal mess with a country on the verge of a revolt when we swoon over the bluffs of political leaders.
One expert compares business to a game of poker. “While both have a large element of chance, in the long run the winner is the man who plays with steady skill. In both games ultimate victory requires intimate knowledge of the rules, insights into the psychology of the other players, a bold front, a considerable amount of self-discipline, and the ability to respond swiftly and effectively to opportunities provided by chance” (Carr 33). I agree with Carr on these points, nowhere in this statement does he condone or make mention of bluffing or lying. Of course a successful business person needs to be well educated, knowledgeable, bold and disciplined. However, a person does not need to bend ethics and morals in order to do so.
One method teaches natural law ethics. Even if the law permits certain behaviors and practices, is it still okay to do? Natural law ethics suggests otherwise. Even if something seems right, we should realize deep down inside, via conscience, what the right and ethical action should be. Given this method of ethics, if lawyers, judges, politicians, and businessmen such as Enron’s finest practiced these methods and followed their own internal compasses, the world would be a much better and just place.
Ultimately, lawyers and politicians are not the only business people practicing wrongdoing in business. Many organizations and leaders hold the theory that if something is not illegal than it must be ethical in business. Many individuals believe in the unethical business game of today. In a dog eat dog world it is important to stand apart from the competition. But individuals and businesses can do so ethically and honestly. It is important to consider professional duties and obligations to the public in business matters. Moral reasoning is far more powerful in business than wrongdoing, bluffing and altering the truth. Ethical practices are the only way to surely be successful, because – as the good saying goes – everything done in the dark eventually comes to the light. Wrongdoing inevitably leads to the dissolve of a person, a business, or a nation. For instance, Enron was one of the most predominant companies in the world. However, the unethical practices and wrongdoings eventually led to the destruction of many, including the organization itself.
Once known as the seventh largest corporation in the world, today Enron is known as the greatest scandal of all time. From greed, power, pride, and money, Enron affected thousands upon thousands of people…in the most negative way. Individuals were scammed, lied to, manipulated, and some even lost their lives. Enron is a prime example of wrongdoing in business. The company based in Houston Texas, lied to and manipulated employees, shareholders, and the public. Enron scammed their investors and stockholders, maintained phony books, transferred huge amounts of money to personal bank accounts, and gambled over gasoline prices. Nearly everything the company participated in behind closed doors consisted of fraud and unethical behavior and practices. The Enron scandal involves illegal as well as unethical practices. The big wigs at the top of the company contained very little integrity and their moral indignity transpired throughout the company.
As a result of the Enron wrongdoing, the primary stakeholders are serving prison sentences for the injustice they inflicted. And since the scandal, new laws and regulations have been implemented in the way companies report their finances and how auditors audit companies despite personal affiliations with them. Primary stakeholders should be held accountable for their actions and how they run big business. With a more utilitarian perspective, it is essential that primary stakeholders hold the best interest of the public, employees and investors at large, while ignoring selfish greed and pride in order to get ahead in life. Enron ultimately disregarded and ignore utility ethics altogether.
Carr, Albert. “Is Business Bluffing Ethical.” Harvard Business Review (1968): 143-153.
Gibney,Alex. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. 2929 Entertainment. 2005. You Tube.