Ethics in Practice
Facts and Assumptions
The key facts in the case are that a leak of information is threatening the survival of the officials of Hewlett Packard Company. The new leak is about the removal of Carly Fiorina from office. The publications that are involved in the case are New York Times, Business Week, Wall Street Journal, and CNET. A shake up in the board sees the ouster of a non-executive chairperson, Patricia Dunn. Private investigators have been hired to conduct comprehensive investigations into the leaked information and use any measures to obtain information from the officials of the company and journalists.
The assumptions made with regards to the above facts are that there is no relationship between the people conducting the private investigations and the employees of Hewlett Packard. Besides, the senior directors are not taking any actions that would interfere with the decisions of the investigators.
Major Ethical Issues
The investigators are applying pre-texting methods to extract information from the board members of the organization. These methods are jeopardizing the privacy of the individuals. It should be noted that every person has the right to freedom of speech and therefore, the use of devices to tap into people’s conversations violates their freedom of speech.
Stakeholders in the Case
There are several stakeholders in this case. Journalists are putting in more efforts to reveal the details of the board meetings. So far, four media organizations have been linked to the information leak. These include New York Times, Business Week, CNET and Wall Street Journal. Patricia Dunn has already quit as a result of the news leak. A lot of issues are surrounding Carly Fiorina, as new about her being removed from her current position as the CEO of Hewlett Packard fill the air. The private investigators have been given the responsibility of investigating the news leak.
When a board member is involved in problematic behavior, the chairperson should make sure that such a problem is dealt with in an amicable way within a reasonable period. Otherwise, the chairperson of the board is responsible for the mistakes that occur in the board meetings. However, every member has to take responsibility for personal mistakes. Early involvement of the entire board can help in avoiding extensive damage to the relationship between the members. Doing this at a later date may result into disagreements since members of the board may have taken sides instead of emphasizing on neutral grounds when it comes to making decisions for enhanced cohesion and positive results.
The members of the board are involved in the operations of the organization, and therefore, the public should have substantive information concerning their past and present activities. The tapping of information from the phones was not out of order since news leak involved all the members of the board and all their phone numbers were submitted to the investigators without any discrimination. There was no breach of privacy since board members are involved in the management of investors’ resources, and hence, have a duty to give certain basic information. The resignation of the board member was not right, because the investigation was targeting all the members and not just him. However, he can also be right if he has information that gives proof beyond any reasonable doubt, that the investigators used his personal information in other matters that are linked to the information leak.
If pre-texting is done for the purposes of investigations into an issue that affects an organization or entity that is represented by the victim, it is not illegal. On the other hand, it can be against the law if it is used single-handedly in causing interference with the privacy of other people for personal interests. Pre-texting should only be applied in the investigation of a special case, but not as a means of settling personal scores between people.
In legal matters, the case would have proceeded to the courts with the board members requiring justice over their rights to privacy. If the issue was about ethics, it would have been discussed in the board meetings and a long-term solution agreed upon. The legal and ethical values are different in that the former is related to matters involving the set rules within the perimeters of the law of a given jurisdiction while the other is concerned with the moral right and wrong of a particular action or process.
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