Category Archives: Business & Commercial

The Discouraging Mylan Epipen Ethics Breakdown

epipen

My economics professor in college was the late John Kenneth Galbraith, a best-selling author, New Frontier favorite and celebrity, to the extent that an economist can be a celebrity. One of the foundations of his fame was his theory that big corporations were becoming the successors to nations. They were, he said, on the way to becoming more powerful than nations, and the working people of the world would begin being more loyal to them than nations or religions.There were a lot of economic and management consequences of this, but it was the ethical implications that most interested me.

Corporate cultures would increasingly steer individual beliefs and behaviors, and strong forces would push these industrial giants to be less driven by profits and more ethically reponsible, since employees would want to be a “citizens” of a corporate state in which they could take pride. Similarly, stockholders wanted to be able to be proud of their holdings, as well as make money with them. His book explaining this theory, “The New Industrial State,” was a sensation. Part of the motive behind the book, my professor being a big government advocate too, was to lay the foundation of the case that these new “states” had to be carefully guided and regulated lest one go rogue and abuse its power to disastrous effect. Still, the position of the book was optimistic: the new giant corporations were scary, but there were forces at work that would make them want to be good and do good while making all that money.

Well, so much for that college course. The unfolding ethics mess that is the Epipen fiasco shows us an ugly company with an unethical culture run by an unethical CEO and invested in by people who don’t give a damn that the company is despicable, as long as they make money. The regulatory system that could have been built on Galbraith’s fantasy has failed utterly.

To make a long, complicated and depressing story shorter, here is a summary with some links at the end. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Marketing and Advertising

The Warped Values Of NFL Fans

nfl-poll

Yahoo Sports posted an infographic on polling results regardingthe ongoing national anthem protests following the example of  San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Part of it shows that 44 percent of NFL fans would likely stop watching NFL games if more players protest the movement.

This suggests that 44% of NFL fans have more  ethical objections to a sport that panders to hypocritical, Black Lives Matter-supporting dim bulbs like Kaepernick than to the fact that the same sport pays young men to cripple themselves while raking in billions and denying that there is a “causal link” between the concussions it routinely inflicts on players and the debilitating brain disease that is being found in autopsies of more former NFL players than not.

This month a class-action lawsuit was filed against Pop Warner, the nation’s largest youth football league. It alleges that the organization knowingly put its young players in danger by ignoring the risks of head trauma. The complaint also accuses USA Football, the youth football arm of the N.F.L. that  creates football helmet safety standards, of failing to protect football-playing kids from the long-term consequences of repeated head hits, while ignoring medical research (as described in the documentary “League of Denial” and the film “Concussion”) that has raised serious concern about whether football is a safe sport, especially for children.

The suit was filed in federal court in California by Kimberly Archie and Jo Cornell, whose sons played football as youngsters and were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, a neurological condition linked to repeated blows to the heads. In March, Pop Warner settled a lawsuit with a family whose son played Pop Warner football and later committed suicide. He was found to have CTE. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Workplace

Wells Fargo Ethics: The Unethical Demagoguery Of Elizabeth Warren

warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), picks her adversaries so well that she gains popularity and unearned credibility through the power of cognitive dissonance. Listen closely, however, and you will hear the ranting of a class-biased demagogue.

Joining in on the bipartisan and well-deserved roasting of Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf before the Senate Banking Committee hearing this week, Warren accused Stumpf of profiting from the mass scam in which over 5000 bank employees signed up customers for services they hadn’t requested, without their knowledge. The bank collected fees for these accounts, cards and services, and the employees got bonuses.

He probably did profit, since the bank did more business and his stock holdings increased in value. Was he aware of the scam, or even behind it? There is no evidence of that yet. Warren also said he should resign. She’s sure right about that. He is accountable as the CEO, and he failed his duty of oversight. It is, as Warren said, typical and wrong that all the firing so far have avoided the executive suites.

But Warren seems to be oddly unaware of her double standard regarding management and leadership accountability. The standards that she was railing at Stumpf for not meeting should also apply to Barack Obama’s accountability for a corrupt IRS, a rogue NSA, a drunk Secret Service, a politically-biased Justice Department, a horrifically incompetent Office of Personnel Management, a criminally negligent VA, and, of course, a technically-challenged State Department that was operated as cash-cow for its Secretary’s personal foundation.  Elizabeth Warren’s application of standards are driven by class bias and partisanship, not conduct or principle. She has enables an administration that has avoided assigning accountability or accepting it for multiple fiascos. The most recent? From Fox News:
Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership

Ethics Quiz: Disney’s Maui Costume

maui

It’s a bit early for Halloween costume controversies , but the outrage machine is ever vigilant, and has provided a provocative ethics quiz, though not a difficult one if one isn’t the Headless Horseman.

Disney released a Halloween costume for kids that will allow tykes to dress up as the Polynesian demi-god Maui, a character in its new animated movie “Moana.” This is classic Disney cross-marketing, what Wells Fargo would call “cross-selling,” and what Elizabeth Warren would call “evil,” because it makes money for a big corporation. The difference is that Disney allows customers to actually purchase such products intentionally, while Wells Fargo charges customers for products without their knowing it.

Wait, how did I get off on Wells Fargo and Warren? Right: the next post. Sorry.

Back to Maui: The costume features a body-suit with thin brown material covered by traditional Polynesian tattoos, as well as a grass skirt and a plastic bone necklace. As soon as it was released on the web, the costume was attacked as racist (it’s the equivalent of blackface, critics say) and an example of cultural appropriation. Marama Fox, co-leader of New Zealand’s Maori Party, said that selling the costume is “no different to putting the image of one of our ancestors on a shower curtain or a beer bottle” while Pasifika news site Samoa Planet described the release as “cultural appropriation at its most offensive worst”.  The New Zealand Human Rights Commission issued a statement calling on Disney to “listen to the views of the communities and people whose cultures their movie is based upon.“ Translation: “Bend to our will, or else.”

Activist Chelsie Haunani Fairchild argued on Facebook that Disney was encouraging a children to wear “the skin of another race.”

“Polyface is Disney’s new version of blackface. Let’s call it like it is, people,” Fairchild argued in a video.

Oh, let’s!

Your Ethics Alarms (Ridiculously Early Halloween) Ethics Quiz of the Day is this:

Is there anything genuinely unethical about making, advertising, selling or wearing the Maui costume?

Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Marketing and Advertising, Race, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump, U.S. Society

Hey, At Least Donald Trump’s Foundation Is Unethical In Unequivocal And Straightforward Ways!

trump-check

It is unethical for charitable foundations to serve as tax-free conduits to personally benefit one of its officers. It’s also illegal. The Donald J. Trump Foundation can certainly give a grant to a cause that Trump himself approves of and supports. If, however, that otherwise legitimate cause is an organization that employs his mistress (just hypothesizing here), or one that is chaired by a major contributor to his campaign in what looks like a quid pro-quo deal, or is a cause favored by a Senator who then votes for a bill favored by President Trump, these are all unethical abuses of a charitable foundation’s integrity. They are also common abuses that personal foundations regularly engage in and get away with. Another unethical use of charitable funds is to allow the foundation employ relatives and friends of foundation leaders at high salaries. Again, this is business as usual for many foundations, and is, while unethical, very difficult to stop.

If, however, a foundation that has tax exempt status uses funds that by law must only be used for charitable activities in ways that directly profit an individual connected to the foundation’s management, that’s a version of money laundering and a fraudulent use of charitable grants. There are no nuances there, none of the spin, legalisms and rationalizations used by the Clintons to justify their foundation’s unethical machinations. It’s just plain, unvarnished, unethical, illegal abuse.

That’s what Donald Trump has used his foundation for:

  • In 2007, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club had to pay  $120,000  fines from the town of Palm Beach, Florida. Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines, and avoid litigation challenging their validity, if Trump would make  a $100,000 donation to a charity for veterans. Instead of making the contribution with his own money, or the club’s money, Trump had his foundation make the contribution (above), which was primarily composed of tax-deductible gifts to his foundation  from others. Trump’s business’s fine was essentially paid by the foundation, and the beneficiary was Trump.
  • One of Trump’s golf courses settled a lawsuit by making a $158,000 donation to the plaintiff’s favorite charity. Again, the Trump Foundation, gave the money, according to tax records.
  • In 2013, Trump directed the Trump Foundation to pay $5,000 for  advertisements touting his chain of hotels in programs for fundraising three events organized by a D.C. preservation group.

Finally, In 2014, Trump’s foundation  paid $10,000  at charity fundraiser for a portrait of himself. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Law & Law Enforcement, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity

“Flipping A Man’s Meat” Ethics

Is this what the culture has accomplished with its hard won respect for and acceptance of gay Americans? Really?

Neil Patrick Harris has done a series of quirky, benign spots  for Heineken Light, perhaps to lure us into a false sense of ease.  For in his most recent commercial,  Harris notes, as he stands next to a man grilling barbecue, that Heineken Light makes it OK “to flip another man’s meat.”

This is another in a long and growing list of TV ads based entirely on the assumption that adults think it’s hilarious to suggest obscene or vulgar innuendos. I’ve written about this phenomenon before, which is merely the normalization of crudeness in our discourse, nothing more, but nothing less either. So now we have gay sexual innuendo  by an openly gay actor to advertise beer. Isn’t that great? Boy, Heineken must be so proud.

The grill guy replies to the puckish—or flirtations?—former-Doogie that no man can do that, but late,  Harris asks him: “Can I flip your meat?”

Wow, that’s just hilarious! Why is it hilarious? Because it’s naughty? Because it’s daring? It’s certainly not clever, and if virtually defines the word “gratuitous.” It it a challenge to viewers, daring them to question the taste of joking about “flipping a man’s meat” when they routinely accept gross commercials with vulgar and gratuitous—you know, like this —heterosexual double entendres?  Is the assumption that gays will giggle, guffaw and slap each other on the back when they see this! “Good own, Neil!” Really? How insulting.

I can’t wait for the masturbation double-entendres in credit card and bank commercials. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Marketing and Advertising, U.S. Society

The Ethical Dilemma Of The Successful, Failing, Local Small Business

Now THIS is a gyros sandwich!

Now THIS is a gyros sandwich!

The little restaurant opened the same year my wife and I moved into the neighborhood. It specialized in yummy Greek fare like gyros, souvlaki, and Greek salads, but also made terrific hamburgers, subs and pizzas, and quickly became our reflex fall-back when we were too tired to make dinner or wanted a treat for lunch. The place was a family operation: the tiny, spunky middle aged woman who seemed to run the place—taking the orders, filling bags, taking the payment—had a Greek accent that reminded me of my grandmother and all of my relatives from her generation; her husband, silent, imposing, who was the chef; and over time, the two children, both of whom worked there when they weren’t in school.

The food was consistently delicious, fresh and authentic, but it was also satisfying to see an old-fashioned family business growing and thriving. A restaurant consultant would probably have said it was too old-fashioned, for the menu never changed, the faded prints of the Parthenon and the Aegean coast were the only decorations in the place, and it dealt only in cash. Still, the little Greek lady greeted you with a knowing smile when you walked in the door, and you knew you were going to be treated like a neighbor.

Then suddenly, the family was gone. The couple decided to sell the place and retire, and a long-time employee who had worked in various jobs over the years took the restaurant over. I knew him, of course, and we talked often. He’s a nice guy, determined, ambitious, hard working. He threw himself into the job of making the business boom. Now the restaurant accepts credit cards and delivers, is open on Sundays, has daily specials, and sports a newly-painted and (somewhat) less austere decor. He also jacked up the price on everything.

The new owner’s formula for success worked almost immediately. The restaurant, he told me, has almost doubled its business. The problem is, as my family gradually discovered, is that the entirely non-Greek staff, including the owner,  has no idea what their food is supposed to taste like. You know you’re in trouble when the entire staff mispronounces everything on the menu, (It’s GIR -Os, hard G, not, ugh, “JY-row,” like the name of the goose inventor in Donald Duck comics), but it’s worse than that. The feta cheese in the Greek salads, which are suddenly mostly iceberg lettuce, is scant and low quality. The once-marvelous cheese steak subs are bland; the onion rings are charred, and every now and then a carry-out order includes something inedible, like the freezer-burned veal parmigiana I had a few months ago. The owner was apologetic, but his candid “I thought that meat looked funny when I microwaved it” didn’t inspire confidence. Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Daily Life