Ethics Unwrapped Blog

OxyContin: Whale Watching

Doctors who overprescribed OxyContin were nicknamed “whales” by Purdue Pharma. While doctors pushed pills, Purdue’s profits were pushed to new heights.

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Countrywide’s Subprime Scandal

Countrywide Financial was one of the largest mortgage lenders in the United States, but CEO Angelo Mozilo did not heed his own warnings in the lead-up to the 2007 financial crisis.

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Drain the swamp

The Swamp: To Drain or Not To Drain

I don’t always agree with President-elect Donald Trump, but I concurred when he tweeted, in the wake of House Republicans’ secretive January 2, 2017 vote to gut the Independent Ethics Office: “With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as […]

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Biases of a Supreme Court Justice

Justice Antonin Scalia will likely go down as one of the brightest minds, most forceful writers, and most colorful characters ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. In many ways, he was a “giant” of the Court, as many of his obituary writers are stressing. But Justice Scalia was also a poster child for […]

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Appropriation & Attribution

Attribution is giving credit where credit is due. Appropriation is the complex borrowing of ideas, images, symbols, sounds, and identity from others.

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America is Awesome… Right?!

As Senator Ted Cruz recognized this week, “Every civilized nation agrees that torture is wrong.” I take it as a given that many of the actions spelled out in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s majority report constitute torture by any reasonable definition. Americans certainly would have defined them as such had they been done to Americans […]

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Incentivizing the VA

Our Concepts Unwrapped video on Incentive Gaming, with content and narration provided by Professor Lamar Pierce of Washington University-St. Louis’s Olin School of Business, explains how many people will game incentive systems if given the opportunity.  School teachers will teach to the test if they are rewarded based on how many of their students pass […]

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A Brief Guide to Behavioral Legal Ethics

Guest blogger Tigran Eldred is an Associate Professor of Law at the New England School of Law in Boston.  He has a distinguished background as a public defender and civil rights lawyer before he joined academia.  However, our particular interest in his contribution relates to his interest in behavioral ethics as it applies to the […]

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Helping Your Employees Be Their Best Selves

There is no single correct way to teach business ethics.  A common approach combines philosophy and character development.  Teachers impart philosophical concepts for resolving difficult ethical issues and encourage students to develop and hone strength of character to give them the means to actually implement the solutions that develop. Any regular reader of this blog […]

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Tools for Teaching Ethics

On a day (October 15, 2013) when the New York Times is carrying articles on former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s guilty pleas to attacks on women, on an indictment of a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old girl on felony charges in connection with the bullying-caused suicide of another 12-year-old girl, and on possible accounting irregularities […]

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Framing

Framing describes how our responses to situations, including our ethical judgments, are impacted just by how those situations are posed or viewed.

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Incentive Gaming

Incentive gaming, or “gaming the system,” refers to when we figure out ways to increase our rewards for performance without actually improving our performance.

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Moral Equilibrium

When we do something good we get to thinking of ourselves as pretty good people, and can then give ourselves license to fail to live up to our own ethical standards. This phenomenon is known as moral equilibrium.

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Self-serving Bias

The self-serving bias causes us to see things in ways that support our best interests and our pre-existing points of view.

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Fundamental Moral Unit

When making ethical decisions, the one consideration that a theory favors over all other considerations is called the Fundamental Moral Unit.

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The Atlanta School District Scandal

I was recently asked to give an ethics talk to a group of high school principals in training.  For a time my mother was a public school teacher and a principal, and in my mind these people are to be greatly admired.  Although a recent survey found teachers to be a pretty happy and satisfied […]

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Jailing Unethical Executives

Financial journalist Bethany McLean has co-written two of the best books on recent financial scandals—The Smartest Guys in the Room about the Enron debacle and All the Devils Are Here about the subprime mess.  In her blog, McLean recently addressed the question: “Does Jailing Executives Make Much Difference?” Judging from public reaction, jailing white collar […]

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Ethics Education: Part I

The title of a recent Wall Street Journal article asked:  “Does an ‘A” in Ethics Have Any Value?”  The article discussed in modest detail several issues relevant to modern business ethics education:  Should ethics be taught?  Can ethics be taught?  If the answer to those questions is ‘yes,’ should it be taught through a stand-alone […]

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Is S&P the next Enron?

In a recent New York Times column, Floyd Norris noted in detail the obvious similarities between the downfall of Arthur Andersen during the Enron debacle and the recent troubles of Standard & Poor’s and other credit rating agencies (CRAs). Arthur Andersen was in an inherent conflict-of-interest situation.  Like all auditors, it was paid by its […]

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Revenge Porn Sites

In teaching ethics in a business school, I typically focus upon decision making errors that well-intentioned people make.  I do so because I believe that most of my students do have good intentions, as do most people in business.  They want to have careers that they can be proud of. But even people of good […]

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Ethics in Politics

The inability of Congress and the President to work together to avoid the “fiscal cliff” until well after their failure to do so had caused real damage to the American economy highlights a deeply troubling problem in the U.S. democratic system.  It is tempting to put all the blame on politicians for America’s bitter ideological […]

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Back to the Movies—Les Miz

In my previous Ethics Unwrapped blog post, I noted that in Steven Spielberg’s movie “Lincoln,” President Lincoln is portrayed as have taken a utilitarian ends-justify-the-means approach to securing passage of the Thirteen Amendment in order to end slavery.  Rather than follow a deontological, rule-based “thou shalt not lie” approach, Lincoln is willing to tolerate lying […]

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Lincoln the Movie

There are two primary means of resolving ethical dilemmas.  The deontological approach is rules-based–don’t lie, don’t steal, keep your promises, etc.  Then there’s the teleological or utilitarian approach, which judges the morality of competing approaches by their consequences (“greatest good for the greatest number”). Both approaches are respectable.  They often lead to the same conclusion […]

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David Petraeus’s Leadership Lessons

At this writing, several military figures are very much in the news in ways that they regret, including former CIA Director David Petraeus, General John Allen, Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair, and General William Ward.  The first three are caught up in sex scandals; General Ward’s problem was being more than a little loose with taxpayer […]

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