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Business Ethics is more than just the study of theory—it is the recognition that the day to day actions of business leaders have consequences. Identify a major corporation that was in the news over the past twelve months for a major ethical failure. Read several articles about both the rise and the fall of this company before undertaking the assignment below.

The steps your group must take are listed below.

1. Identify a company that has had a recent ethical failure.

What intrigues you about this specific company? What was the company known for before the problem? How would you describe its culture? Was it generally well regarded?

  • Example: Enron was known for hiring the “best and brightest” before it collapsed under systemic financial fraud. It had a culture of aggressive risk taking and was considered a complicated company with a difficult to understand financial model. It was envied by most of its competitors.
  • Procedure: Decide on a topic you all find interesting.
  • Product: You must write 1 page explaining the company you chose, its culture and how it was regarded before it had its ethical failure.

2. Review the literature.

Read 2-3 articles written before the scandal to give you a sense of how difficult it can be at times to see a cultural failure before it is exposed publically. Then read 2-3 articles written after the scandal to give you a sense of the full arc of the company’s rise and fall.

  • Example: For example, there were several laudatory articles written about Enron right up until it collapsed. Many of these authors admitted that they did not exactly understand how Enron made money but they applauded the company nonetheless. The articles written after the company failed tried to identify why the company failed. Could an astute reader have picked up on any of these signals before the collapse?
  • Product: You must write a 2-3-paragraph summary of each article your team reads. Your summary must tell what the article is about, convey its findings, and explain how the information relates to your topic.

3. Identify 2-3 cultural “signals” that might have suggested such a collapse was possible.

Your group should discuss at length what clues or signals could have been identified by the business community about the company you chose to indicate that this company was at risk.

  • Example: In the example of Enron, several authors and business leaders publicly stated that they did not understand how Enron made money. Such comments are often signals from intelligent businesspeople that they have concerns about a given business model but aren’t certain how to articulate the concerns.
  • Procedure: Identify what you learned in the journal articles you read. Identify 3-4 signals or clues that your company may have not been all it pretended to be.
  • Product: You must write a 1-2 page description of these clues and signals.

4. Considering your discussion of the corporate culture of your subject company, describe 3-4 types of cultures or companies that currently exist which have the potential to have a major ethical problems in the future.

Identify potential future issues.

  • Example: Companies which are very secretive about how they make money and create their products could have the potential to be the next Enron. Secretive upper management could be signaling that all is not as it seems.
  • Procedure: What types of companies and corporate cultures may contribute to corporate ethical lapses.
  • Product: You must submit 1 page of your findings.


  • 1 page about your corporate topic;
  • 2-3 paragraphs per article describing your findings;
  • 1-2 page description of the clues and signals you found; and
  • 1-page on what types of cultures breed ethical lapses.
  • APA format (including bibliography)

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