DBA 7632, Business Ethics and Corporate Responsibility 1
Course Learning Outcomes for Unit III Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:
4. Examine ethical issues in finance and accounting. 4.1 Examine a journal article for finance and accounting issues. 4.2 Analyze the purpose of research focusing on ethical issues in finance and accounting.
5. Evaluate ethical issues in the workplace.
5.1 Examine peer-reviewed ethics research for substance and supporting evidence.
Course/Unit Learning Outcomes
4.1 Unit Lesson Chapter 10, pp. 302–311 Unit III Article Critique
4.2 Unit Lesson Chapter 10, pp. 302–311 Unit III Article Critique
5.1 Unit Lesson Chapter 11, pp. 327–343 Unit III Article Critique
Reading Assignment Chapter 10: Ethical Marketing, Finance, Accounting, and Human Resource Management, pp. 302-311 Chapter 11: Promoting Organizational Citizenship, pp. 327–343
Unit Lesson Introduction Prior units have addressed foundational issues regarding ethics and ethics in the workplace. A solid foundation has been laid for us to build upon. As a doctoral student, you may find yourself in a unique situation where you have to utilize a higher level of knowledge while also being able to assimilate, synthesize, and evaluate concepts with practical application. As an individual with a doctoral education, there is a higher standard of expectation that goes with this honor. From an ethical standpoint, you have the ability to think in ways that the majority will not. What was acceptable previously may no longer be acceptable. As we delve into the topic of ethics in finance and accounting, the news has been littered with stories of improprieties by organizations of all sizes where the ethics within the organization were compromised when it came to management of money, investments, and resources. Individual Accountability Included in the assigned textbook readings for this unit are discussions regarding how individuals or teams could be persuaded to operate in a manner that is not considered to be ethical. The example provided in the Self Assessment 11.2, which is on page 344 in the textbook, provides some insight as to how an individual who exercises strong ethical standards in one situation would behave very differently in another situation (Johnson, 2019).
UNIT III STUDY GUIDE
Finance and Accounting
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The individual who has come up through the organization or in a given industry gains a wealth of knowledge and information as to policy, practice, and procedure. The discussion as to whether it is better to work for multiple organizations in different positions or whether it is better to work for a single organization and climb the corporate ladder is a debate for another time. Studying under different leaders while observing or practicing the policies of the individual as well as the organization is often where the rubber meets the road with respect to practice and implementation of policy. Enforcement might look very different depending on the organization or circumstance. On October 19, 1982, John DeLorean was arrested for allegedly trying to sell over 55 pounds of cocaine (Cummings, 1982). DeLorean was well-known in the automotive industry for designing high-performance vehicles for the masses. Years before, having chosen to start his own automobile line, he created a high-end performance vehicle for the time. DeLorean encountered ongoing financial concerns for his automotive company over about a five-year period from 1978 to 1982. DeLorean stepped into a situation to raise some cash through a means that was not only illegal but was also unethical with respect to organizational standards as well as societal standards (Cummings, 1982). Corporate Accountability An individual who has experienced extenuating circumstances is likely to choose unique solutions that he or she might not otherwise choose. An organization that has grown in stature, prominence, power, and influence can find these components addictive. There is an ongoing quest for more. Decisions are made to hire individuals who will advance the status and standing of the organization in order to gain greater power, persuasion, and influence. The cycle continues until a situation occurs that will break the cycle. The same is true at an individual level. We see stories of leaders who started out with relatively humble beginnings and then skyrocketed to success. We hear of individuals such as Bernie Madoff, Dennis Kozlowski, Kenneth Lay, Andrew Skilling, and Bernie Ebbers whom have dotted the business sections and the financial sections of organizations. The names are now known to those outside the business sector as examples of where greed, scandal, and corruption impacted the corporate leadership of established organizations. The quest for more— more power, more influence, and more money—can overrule doing what is considered to be the right thing within an organization based on societal expectations. The risk increases if decisions are not made through the use of sound practices and policy with respect to ethical standards. The individuals mentioned above hid behind the corporate label, did not stand for individual accountability, and convinced themselves that they were doing what was in the best interest of the company while they also personally gained. Financial Responsibility Not all chief executives live up to the example expressed earlier. Most C-suite leaders conduct the operations of the organization at a level that will continue to grow the organization in an ethical and responsible manner. There are checkpoints and cross-checks to ensure a consistent level of quality. We have talked about regulatory agencies, external audits, and internal audits of an organization. There is value in understanding the processes and procedures in place with the checks and balances to ensure that the code of conduct is upheld consistently throughout the organization. A news story told of a woman working for a large church in Texas who, after years of maintaining bookkeeping duties for the faith-based organization, came upon personal financial struggles. She began having credit cards issued in the organization's name that she carried and used for personal needs. She began shifting money from other accounts within the organization to cover these expenses. Over a 2-year period, she acquired almost $250,000 in debt (Djinis, 2016). The point is that the incident should never have advanced that far and for that long. Eventually, the woman was arrested and charged with embezzlement and fraud. This was not the CEO of a major corporation, but it was an employee at a multimillion-dollar organization. We often hear stories of employees who borrow company assets or draw out additional resources that they do not necessarily need or are not eligible for. These issues speak to individual accountability while living under a corporate umbrella. Employees who choose to use the company name to achieve or obtain benefit also speak to issues of integrity and ethics. Understanding the individual side of ethics when it comes to finance and accounting aspects of an organization speaks to the need for corporate accountability as well as checks and balances throughout the organization. There is need for accountability for all individuals at all levels. Addressing the needs of the organization from a financial perspective requires having a clear understanding of what the finances
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for the organization look like. This can be in areas of investment, expansion, development, and services that are provided either to or by the organization. The ethical aspects of the financial components within an organization require a strong comprehension of financial tools and how they are applied throughout the organization. The corporation has a responsibility to shareholders, employees, and clients. Continued growth, advancement of opportunities, and increased profitability are often at the forefront of organizational leadership. Leadership will address profitability and how to maximize shareholder wealth, secure share in the marketplace, and ensure there is competitive advantage within the industry. When the organization takes a turn from what is in the best interest of the overall organization toward what is in the best interest of leadership or a select group, this would represent a straying from the organization's code of conduct. Examples of this could be bolstering the stock price just before quarterly earnings are posted and selling a quantity of stocks at the inflated price. A select group of individuals that is aware of these activities may choose to profit from these plans. We have seen examples of insider trading with celebrities and corporate leaders over the past generation. Another often-used approach is downsizing an organization before quarterly earnings are posted in order to improve projections for the upcoming quarter. These are among the many questionable methods that are used to bolster profitability by reducing operating costs temporarily. Accounting Responsibility Transitioning from financial interests to the accounting side, there can be a degree of confusion as these terms are often used synonymously. Accounting provides the services to ensure proper measures are being taken to secure the resources of the organization. Resources may include equipment, personnel, and financial tools. Accounting at a granular level provides accountability, auditing, and responsibility to maintain integrity of the organization and its resources. The accountant is often the one who will provide the quantifiable status of accounts within an organization. Emotion is left out of the equation; the status is based on facts and evidence. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there were cases of accounting consultancies that were performing external audits and colluding with large corporate clients in order to address accounting discrepancies; this allowed for greater profitability and less risk. A prime example is Enron Corporation. The executives of Enron chose to divert considerable liability into shadow corporations, allowing these false corporations to absorb the losses while keeping the parent company profitable (Johnson, 2019). The consultancy firm that was hired to perform these external audits chose to partake in activities that would cover these unethical actions rather than reporting the company for deceiving shareholders as well as the clients being served. A senior executive called an ethics hotline to blow the whistle on these activities due to concerns regarding self-governance and the financial health of the organization. When the system of checks and balances breaks down or is not consistently adhered to, the power, influence, and corruption previously mentioned becomes a greater draw for the individual or team of individuals who could stand to profit significantly. Implementing an ethical standard throughout the organization at all levels is critical to the ongoing health and well-being of the organization. The foundation has been laid as to ethics in the workplace. Consideration of ethical conduct and practices in the finance and accounting departments of an organization is required; this is necessary in determining acceptable ethical conduct inside and outside of the organization. Accountability at all levels is required. While growth is necessary for the organization to prosper, maintaining the integrity of the
Four major functions of accounting where ethical issues may arise (Johnson, 2019)
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organization through its actions and enforcement of ethical practices serves the organization as well as the greater good on all levels.
References Cummings, J. (1982, October 20). DeLorean, automobile executive, arrested in drug smuggling case. The
New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1982/10/20/us/delorean-automobile- executive-arrested-in-drug-smuggling-case.html
Djinis, E. (2016, September 2). First Baptist bookkeeper rang up $250K in charges on Carrollton church's
credit cards, police say. The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved from https://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/2016/09/02/first-baptist-bookkeeper-rang-250k-charges- oncarrollton-churchs-credit-cards-police-say
Johnson, C. E. (2019). Organizational ethics: A practical approach (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.