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Ethics and Social Responsibility Assignment Help

Discuss and define a whistleblower as defined by the policy of the company/organization you have chosen. Explain who reports an activity that he or she considers illegal or dishonest to one or more of the parties specified.

The whistleblower is not responsible for investigating the activity or for determining fault or corrective measures; appropriate management officials are charged with these responsibilities.

Give some examples of illegal or dishonest activities that are violations of federal, state or local laws. If an employee has knowledge of or a concern about illegal or dishonest fraudulent activity, the employee is to contact his or her immediate supervisor or the Human Resources Director. Do you agree with this protocol?


Overview of Whistleblowing & Introduction:

Businesses though are functional for commercial motives, social responsibilities and ethics are from social responsibility perspectives. Businesses need to be functional in the most socially responsible manner possible.  Standards are effective tools and the framework of standards can make sure that the organizational functionality will work for the benefit of employees, communities, economy as well as environmental functionality as well.  Companies when operating in a responsible ethical framework and environment, they will draw respect and recognition from society. In the contemporary business operational portfolio, not all organizations are abiding by the ethics and moral obligations; they are several organizations often being pointed out by interested parties for breach of codes, ethics and moralities.

Whistleblowing is an activity wherein the stakeholders, typically workers will expose an event or an activity in the organization that is not moving according to the legal standards as well is not according to the ethical standards (Devine, 2017). Whistleblowing can be there from within the organization, from outside the organization. It can be from consumers, it can be from voluntary organizations or from anywhere. Whistleblowing will work on to expose the malady in the organization and the concerned regulating authorities can take up necessary actions to set the system right. Seriousness of the issue can be smaller or larger, but whistleblowing essentially will contribute to the betterment of the situation by bringing in the focus of all the related parties on to the issue.

Whistleblowing is often considered to be a disclosure of wrongdoing in the organization. They ought to be related to the public interests, nothing of private grievances and personal complaints fall in the category of whistleblowing disclosures. Typically issues like Financial frauds, failure to comply with the obligation set out in law, miscarriages of justice, Endangering someone's health and safety, environmental damages by means of organizational activities, working to cover-up wrongdoing in each of the above categories all fall in the category of whistleblowing disclosures. A most anticipated action by the concerned managers when a whistleblowing feature surfaced is to look into the action, take up the factual investigation, identifying the sources and the effects, further limiting from reprisal of the whistleblowers etc. When all such activities are undertaken, it is more likely the issue will get limited within the organization and will not go public. Such immediate corrective action is the responsibility of the managers and this, in turn, will limit the possible deterioration and damage to the integrity and prestige of the organization. Not just taking up a corrective action at the sight of disclosure, rather it is very much needed for organizations to have a culture of grooming workers to respond properly, to approach different stakeholders in the organization.            

Also it is required for the organization to take up appropriate measures to enforce constructive environment to promote a caring culture, which will take up positively the actions happening in the organization, rather than working to reprise the whistle-blowers, organizations are expected to resolve the problem with necessary pro-activity and with an element of responsibility in its operational philosophy. The following part of the discussion will present a case of whistleblowing, where incomplete details of the case are presented with sufficient coverage Details of who the whistleblower is what type of information is disclosed, how is it related to illegality or unethical standards? What type of actions the organization has taken to rectify the situation, how they are resolved later on? These are some of the diverse questions discussed. Apart from this basic information, sensitive analysis of whistleblower actions is presented in the report. Justification of the actions and procedures employed in the case by the whistleblower, discussion on the procedures taken up by the whistleblower are some of the several points reflected on in the following part of the write-up.

Case – Brief:

Sherron Watkins, was the vice-president of Enron, when came to know that there are several fraud allegations in the accounting of Enron. She critically evaluated the reliance on the income statements of Enron and understood that there is big fraud going on. She wrote a letter to the chairman Kenneth Lay detailing that the accounting methods of the company are highly improper. Later the fraud got exposed and the congressional subcommittees were appointed to look into the entire issue. During that time, Watkins letter was exposed and she became a popular whistleblower and public figure as well. She has become one of the persons of the year 2002 for Times magazine. Inspite of the deceitful rosy picture framed by Enron with a lot of profits and prospects, the actual truth is different, the company was heading with several hundred millions of debt, which was cannot be paid back in the prevailing circumstances. Being an ex-accountant, Sherron Watkins managed to understand the situation and wrote a serious warning letter to the chairman indicating the company may implode into serious legal and financial troubles. In spite of being in the top management team of the organization, Sherron Watkins never hesitated to bring out the facts and her attempts later became lessons and inspiration to several others in the same domain. Sherron Watkins later moved to work as a governance corporate advisor and has also delivered several guest lecturers in universities regarding whistleblowing.

- Questions of ethics

Of course yes, it is absolutely ethical to be a whistleblower. Though your obligations are there for the organization as an employee, there is much larger responsibility on the person for society. Public interests do matter first. There are several professional codes of conducts emphasizes the fact that the public interests should come first and no professional has the right or privilege to undermine the interests of the other people. In this connection, there is no need for any type of hesitation in saying that the whistleblower's actions are completely ethical and they need to be encouraged as well. In the current case, Sherron Watkins has played a very good ethical role and her attempts need appreciation. Perhaps the inspiration that other people can gain from her experience and episode may help on to protect somewhere thousands of people's hard earned savings and retirement benefits. She did not bother her job and future, she just made things which she believed are right to expose about. She has done a perfectly ethical job.

- The procedure employed for exposing information

Sherron Watkins has just framed out a letter addressing to the chairman of Enron indicating the facts and possibly disastrous consequences. She has taken up an initiative to expose out the accounting scandals occurred in the organization. Enron has successfully managed to hide hundreds of millions of dollars of debt in the organization. Considering the interests of thousands of investors who invested of their hard earned savings in the company, expecting of rosy returns, She did not think anything more than her duty to bring out the facts and the protect the public interests to the maximum extent that she can. Later when her letter with complete details of the draft is exposed to, she was appreciated from all corners of the society for her bold and ethical act of disclosure.

- Proper protocol

Sherron Watkins not only remained as a responsible whistleblower but also worked on to remain a responsible employee of the organization too. She has followed the right protocols of the whistleblowing. She tried her best to remain ethical, by not just leaking out the information to the media or other interested parties external to the organization. She just came into contact with the chairman of the organization and reported the things happening in the organization as in the form of the accounting scandals. This will provide reasonable room for the chairman and subsequently to the board to take up appropriate measures and decisions to rectify the problem in Enron. This would have enabled the resolution of the problem within the organization very effectively. She has followed the protocol and kept her loyalty and responsibility to her Employer. This is Enron that was damaged beyond repair and ultimately collapsed within the short time of the incident. Sherron has followed absolutely right protocol in discharging her responsibilities as a whistleblower.

- Leaking the information to the media sources

Sherron Watkins has not involved in leaking the information to the media sources. Media came across the information once after the collapse of the organization only. However still normally the information will be leaked to the media in few circumstances like, when there is fear that the organization can work on to close-up or damage the evidence, whether there is absolute doubt that the company will not look into the whistleblowing and further it can create problems or illegal activities. If the whistleblower has complete belief that the incident is an illegal activity and it has complete potential to damage the society and it has nothing to do with the personal grievance or complaint. When once he or she is clear from all these perspectives, information can be leaked to the media for public attention and proper action. There are several instances in the past, where there was a leak of documents to the public media like in the case of wiki-leaks and several similar instances.

- Impact over the organization

When a whistleblower reveals the disclosure, the subsequent impact of the same on the organization will purely depend on the case to case basis. The exact impact of the whistleblowing will depend on the seriousness of the issue and the stakeholders there in the context as well. In most of the circumstances when whistleblowing is done as per the protocol and if the company is genuinely interested in the social responsibilities then right actions will be taken up. It is morally obligated to rectify the complications in the scenario and will let the system move properly. If the company genuinely works on to compensate the victims and if corrective actions are taken, the image of the company will shoot up again and the public may appreciate the efforts of the company. This will create of course positive image to the company. Alternatively, if the whistleblowing is not bothered about, if the company is not serious to take corrective actions on the incident then it is more likely to project the negative image of the company. In the extreme cases when there is no proper action taken in the organization and if the whistleblower approached the public media to settle the matter, the overall image of the organization will get corrupted completely. There are also chances that the organization will collapse if the whistleblowing is a failure in the organization.

- Ethical implications of the actions

A whistleblower has only one ethical dilemma, either to be loyal to the company and encouraging the illegal activity or to perform his or her legal and moral obligations and to work on to enforce fairness in the organizational functionality. Though an employer can demand reasonable compliance of moral and ethical attachment with the organizational functionality, there is nothing superior to the social and obligation to the general interests. Utilitarianism, the ethical theory of benefit analysis emphasizes that what is good for society at large and what is good for people at large will be the acceptable ethical norm. Even application of the same ethical principle, insists that the whistleblower need to function in the perspective of the stakeholders at large and should not be misled by the interest of a small cross-section of the people in the organization. Hence apart from an appreciation for fairness in acts and behavior, no whistleblower will receive any ethical damage or derogatory outcomes for their actions. They will be appreciated for their work at large.

- Company representative and possible actions

If I were to be a company representative or the chairman as in the case of Enron, I would not have allowed the situation to escalate to these dimensions. I would have allowed all that is possible to constrain the situation to proper track. I will do my best to confine the situation get rectified. Whatever internal measures possible to pay back the debt to project the right picture to the shareholders is possible will be undertaken. All the accounts of the organization will be re-audited, whatever adjustments are possible from the existing funds, they will be done so. Shareholders general body meeting will be conducted and will be informed them of the situation. Expert financial advisors team will be called for preventing the situation from deterioration. There are instances in the financial history timelines, where organizations have involved in a similar economic crisis; they had sought the support from the government organizations to rectify the situation. Government funding is taken; sometimes the government might have initiated right measures and would have initiated actions of merger or government undertakings for reinstating the best interests of the shareholders and the general public. If the situation is beyond repair and as in the position of the chairman or representative if I could not have rectified the situation, I will definitely seek for the assistance of the government considering the public interests in the matter. Moral and ethical priorities will be considered the most significant aspects in this direction and all measures to upkeep these interests will be taken care of within the scope of control possible by me. In no-way, there will be repression of the whistle-blowers, at no occasion there can be retaliating actions allowed on the whistleblower. They will be provided with the necessary assurance and protection needed(Near & Miceli, 2016).

- My personal view about the case

There is no doubt that the sherron Watkins has done a commendable work. Inspite of being in top chair, she did not bother for her personal returns and career, she open-heartedly confined to her moral and ethical obligations. She has presented a clear picture of the happenings to the chairman and provided to him all the possible chances and opportunities to rectify the current situation. However, still, I believe this was too late and already a lot of damage has happened to the financial health of the organization. But still some key aspects were neglected, there were no immediate actions taken up by the board inspite of getting the disclosure of the entire episode. Right corrective actions if implemented at the right time, the company would have avoided bankruptcy and collapse. There are several economic regulatory organizations there in the nation, to protect the interests of the common investors; it is possible to protect the interests of the shareholders by extraordinary measures of the government and by other regulatory bodies in the country. But they were not done properly. There is an absolute failure of the organization in achieving the expected change.  But still, Enron has brought out a change in the paradigm in the country (Cordis & Lambert, 2017). Numerous new observations and legislation are formed in the wake of the Enron scandal to protect a common person.  I believe it is welcome change and organizations have much to do to protect the interests of the shareholders. Short-term interests will not create anything solid, long term interests, genuine favoring of the moral and ethical obligations towards society, only will enable the organizations to sustain.

- Stand and support

My stand is perfectly in line with the whistleblowing protocols follow-up. There is no need for unnecessary chaos, when there is scope for rendering the solutions within the procedural protocols executions. However still I believe there is a need for an element of an extra active role by whistleblowers, their duty need not just end by bringing out the disclosure, they can think of a possible solution, they can follow-up with happenings. They can pragmatically analyze the situation and can think of all the possible corrective measures that can create the right solutions to the problems. Further, there is no need for fear or for false outcomes from the entire incident. One can take up all the necessary extra interests to bring out justice to the disadvantaged. In any case, following the protocols and working out the whistleblowing is the first step in discharging the ethical and moral obligations by people in the individual levels.

- The policy of the company towards Whistleblowing:

This is a landmark case in whistleblowing in the United States. So far there were no proper corporate whistleblowing acts. Enron is a landmark case in this stream and in the subsequent occurrences and developments, the Sarbanes Oxley Act was enacted in the following years of exposure of the fraud in Enron. Corporate and criminal fraud accountability act is the subset of the Sarbanes Oxley act (Banerjee et al.,2015) and was since then working on to protect the interests of the people who had genuinely worked on to do whistleblowing(Brandt,2018). Though there are no specific policies there in force in Enron until then, the episode of Sherry Watson is treated with dignity. There is big outrage against the corporate leaders of Enron as well to the auditing partner of Enron Andy Anderson during that time. Inspite of causing the disclosure and created nationwide outrage, Sherron is not retaliated in Enron and she has continued her services with the company till the end. This is in fact in accordance with the corporate and criminal fraud accountability obligations of the company. There is no any vehement and clear law existing there in the company, however, still the interests of the whistleblower are protected and she is offered with zero retaliation from Enron.  This might be either voluntarily accepted unsaid policy of the Enron at that time towards whistleblowing. As there is no existing policy of that type, there is no question arises regarding who should follow the procedure and whom should be reported in that case. However Still Sharron the whistleblower of Enron has followed the right procedure and protocols during the case, she has informed about the case to her immediate supervisor, the chairman of the organization. Also, she has followed the right procedure by not disclosing information to the general public or to the media. She is responsible for the protocols and done all that can be done to let the crisis be managed internally and to get resolved appropriately(Marnet & Farichild,2018).

- Responsibilities of Whistleblower

A whistleblower is not actually responsible for the investigation of the activity for determining the fault or to take up the corrective measures. A simple employer or worker may notice some environmental damage being happened from the company manufacturing unit and can inform the same to his immediate manager. However, his obligation is limited to reporting the matter to the concerned person to rectify the same. He has no obligation to correct the same. In fact a simple employee or worker has no freedom, rights or skills to rectify the problem in the organization. However still he can possess the right wisdom to follow up on the case, he can bring out the case to the general public if felt there was no justice done. Similarly, if he or she feels that evidence are destructed and if the organization is not doing its rightful duty, the entire scenario can be brought to the notice of the regulating authorities or the general media and public. In most of the cases, whistleblower maybe not having the necessary skills to prevent the damage as well will not be having the necessary capabilities to influence the board to take up corrective measures. His obligations are normally limited to bring out a proper change in the system by reporting the matter to the right personnel and compelling them to take up the right measures. Enron involved in economic standards that are against the corporate duty of care of obligations of disclosure, this is a violation of the federal laws and corporate laws in the country.  Tax evasion by misrepresentation of the facts is an illegal activity in the United States. Occupational health and safety standards are expected to be in line with the established standards, if there were any breach of the standards in this direction, then it is illegal. Workers health and safety is to be assured. Releasing pollutants beyond acceptable toxic levels is illegal as per the federal laws in the country. There are very clear regulations regarding the disposal of hazardous substances in the country. Any breach of these protocols and if they are being dumped without proper procedure, then obviously it is an illegal activity(Keith et al.,2016).

- Yes if there is an observation of dishonest activity or illegal activity in his immediate vicinity, a worker or an employee need to contact his immediate supervisor. It is more likely that the incident will be managed internally to eliminate the damage from the same. It is more likely that there will be a restoration of proper procedures. However still if the whistleblower observes things are not rectified, or if he feels that there is mismanagement in covering up the issues, always he has the choice to go for justice or public. This is purely an ethical obligation and I believe he needs to follow this procedure to get things done.

- Whistleblower protection is mandatory and there is a need to do so. Without legal protection, there is no scope for any type of apprehensions to surface back on the screen. Well beyond the protection regulations to the whistleblower it is also very much required for the whistleblowers to assess the case several times before bringing out the case to the report. It is their duty to take care in analyzing the case as something of genuine interest and there is no element of personal retaliation or grievance included in. A right whistleblowing action will always be commended and there are several evidences for the same. Well, companies also need to pay responsibility in keeping confidentiality and to protect the whistleblowers from retaliation, even in the extreme cases of damage to the organization. This is legal and these directives need to be protected by law.


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