Ethics Hero: Glen James

Glen James, role model.

Glen James, role model.

This is straightforward: Glen James, a Boston man who lives in shelters and has no money, found a backpack over the weekend that contained $2,400 in cash, $39,500 in traveler’s checks, passports, and other personal items. James flagged down a passing Boston police officer and gave him the backpack.  As is often the case with stories like this, he doesn’t think what he did was a big deal: after all, isn’t this what anyone would do?

We all know the answer to that question. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: You Now Know That Your Neighbors Are Irredeemable Creeps—Now What?

“Now that you are all grown up, I want to tell you about the Duffs, and you can decide what to do…”

And you think you have rotten neighbors! Meet the Duffs.

Scott and Roxanne Duff of Leechburg, Pennsylvania found their neighbor’s Golden Retriever and new Rottweiler puppy  wandering in their yard. They called the police, who said to describe the dogs and hand them over to a local animal shelter. They finally returned the Golden to the owners, who lived on the same street, but told the police and the owners that the puppy had run away. Actually, the Duffs were in the process of trying to sell the Rotty on Craig’s List.

The next day, the owner of the dogs called police to say he had heard that the puppy was still at the Duffs’ house, as someone reported seeing it in their yard. Police inquired, only to be told, “Puppy? What puppy?”  Eventually the Dastardly Duffs confessed to selling the dog for $50. The puppy was duly retrieved from a Pittsburgh woman who police said was unaware of the theft, and reunited with its owner. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Hero and Dunce: A Tale of Two Windfalls”

In a classic example of  “Be careful what you wish for,” I had been thinking about how none of the recent comments, excellent though many were, quite struck the “Comment of the Day” gong for me, and then, like the answer granted by a perverse genie, this turns up. A reader named Lawrence Reliford argues that Stephen McDow had every right to spend the money erroneously deposited in his bank account, and in the process evokes—let’s see—six rationalizations, three misconceptions, two bad analogies, one wonderful Malaprop and a partridge in a pear tree.  (I may have miscounted; this can also be an ethics quiz.) On a more depressing note, I am quite certain that a larger portion of the population than any of us would be comfortable admitting agree with Lawrence. You can find my response to his comment with the original post, here...but please feel free to write your own. Lawrence needs all the guidance he can get. Here is The Comment of the Day: Continue reading

Ethics Hero and Dunce: A Tale of Two Windfalls


You can trust Robert Adams. Well, that's ONE....

Stephen Reginald McDow of Laguna Beach, California found an unexpected $110,000 federal tax refund in his bank account. He knew it wasn’t his; he also had to realize it was an error. But what the heck…he took a shot. McDow spent the money on foreclosure debts and  paying off his student and car loans.

He’s been charged with one felony count of theft of lost property, with a sentencing enhancement for taking property over $65,000, and faces a maximum sentence of four years in state prison.

There is a lot of sympathy for McDow; you can see man in the street interviews on cable where people say things like, “Hey, are you kidding me? If I found all that money in my bank account, I’d spend it too! Anyway, it isn’t his fault!” A lot of people apparently think this way, which means they are ethically inert. The issue isn’t who was responsible for the money landing in the wrong account (the rightful recipient of the refund had given the IRS the wrong bank account number), but that someone had lost money that rightfully belonged to her, not McDow, and it became his duty to fix the problem.Instead, he spent it, and crossed his fingers. Continue reading

Ethics Lost in Dallas Lost and Found Policy

Texas schoolteacher Gwen Patterson in Dallas found $470 cash and turned it in to the police as lost. The police said they would make the usual efforts to locate the owner. Gwen assumed she would hear if the money was claimed, and if it was not, that she would be contacted to pick up the cash herself. “I didn’t plan a big party, but I thought I could donate to some animal charities, and a relative is out of work,” she said. After four months of futile calls and being given the runaround, she was told that Dallas’ official policy is not to return lost money and valuables to the honest finder who turned it in, but to keep it. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Cabbie and the Jewelry”

Prodigal Commenter Penn re-entered the ethics fray with two anecdotes about ethics and Japanese culture in reaction to the Ethics Alarms quiz, “The Cabbie and the Jewelry.” This was the second COTD to be inspired by that story of the ethical—or pragmatic—cabbie who rescued $100,000 worth of jewelry left in his cab by a careless fare.

Here is Penn’s “Comment of the Day”:

“70s, Tokyo, 2 anecdotes: Continue reading

Comment of the Day: Ethics Quiz: “The Cabbie and the Jewelry”…Ethics or Pragmatism?

Karl Penny puts the perfect topping on this post, about the praise being heaped on the NYC cabbie who returned $100,000 in jewels to an absent-minded fare, when he could have made a dash for the Bahamas. I obviously couldn’t say it better myself, because I didn’t.

Here is Karl, a long-time and cherished reader, on Ethics Quiz: “The Cabbie and the Jewelry”…Ethics or Pragmatism?

“Well, it would be a pretty swell world if everyone did the right thing in cases like these, simply because it never occurred to them to do it any other way.  But that’s not the world we live in.  But, in either type of world, people like Mr. Jalloh should be highly praised:  in the world as it is, because he becomes an exemplar of the way things should be; and in the better world, because virtue never goes out of style and should be reaffirmed whenever an example of it occurs.”

Ethics Quiz: “The Cabbie and the Jewelry”…Ethics or Pragmatism?

Cable news, the New york press and the blogosphere are singing the praises of Big Apple cabbie Zubiru Jalloh, who, when he discovered that an absent-minded passenger, John James, had left a bag containing about $100,000 worth of jewelry in his back seat (“Doh!”) of his cab, rescued the bag from the next passenger, took it home for safekeeping, and eventually got it back to its rightful owner. Continue reading

Gizmodo and Gawker: Guilty, Greedy, and Unethical

Count Ethics Alarms with those who hope Gawker and its affiliated gadget site Gizmodo get as many books thrown at them as possible if the iPhone theft case gets to court.

As is always the case with Gawker, a completely ethics-free operation that has snickered about its participation in other outrages—such as its “Gawker Stalker” feature allowing people to alert the world to the exact location of any celebrity who is out, you know, trying to live—the sites management is crowing about doing wrong. “Yes, we’re proud practitioners of checkbook journalism,” tweeted Nick Denton, founder of Gawker Media. “Anything for the story!” Anything including fencing stolen goods, it seems. Nicely, the law often has a way of making unethical people wish they were more ethical, and this should be an example of that.

If you have somehow missed the story all the gadget geeks are tweeting about, Gawker released a scoop photo spread on Apple’s yet-to-be-released iPhone after an Apple engineer stupidly, carelessly and unethically left a prototype that he was entrusted with in a bar. It was found by someone who understood its value and who it belonged to, and who also had no more scruples than, well, Gawker. That meant that this California law applied… Continue reading