Business Ethics

Jason and Sara are discussing an action taken by a potential new client and Jason’s response to that action.

♦ Jason has met with a potential client that wanted him to do something Jason found completely unethical: to conduct an exploratory research study into the proposed and planned activities of a competitor by using a false job-interview format to lure competitor’s employees seeking job advancement to the interviews—individuals who would be unlikely to volunteer to participate in such an interview if the true purpose was revealed.

♦Based on information gleaned from the actions of another executive, the computer peripheral manufacturer had sent out a request for proposal (RFP), requesting firms with focus-group facilities to submit proposals to conduct several taped, individual depth interviews. The hidden purpose of the interviews was to discover competitor’s growth plans. Supposedly, another firm had tried this and successfully lured one of its major competitor’s director of business development to apply for the fake position. In the context of the interview the executive had revealed information about his employer’s growth plans in Mexico.

♦ During the interview to determine if Henry and Associates will be awarded the contract for this research project, Jason discovers that the project is not as it was detailed in the RFP.

– He leaves the interview, withdrawing his proposal and taking his company’s physical proposal with him.

– He identifies the other companies vying for the project based on the proposals clearly visible on the manufacturer’s desk.

– He calls his counterpart at the other research companies and reveals the true purpose and design of the project being proposed.

•Some Additional Discussion Questions:

♦Who acted unethically here?

– Is it appropriate/inappropriate for a potential client (the computer peripheral manufacturer) to suggest a methodology to the person or firm it wants to do the actual research?

– Was it appropriate/inappropriate for Jason to withdraw the Henry and Associates proposal?

– Was it appropriate/inappropriate for Jason to use the visible covers of other research suppliers’ proposals to identify the other companies competing for the research contract.

– Was it appropriate/inappropriate for Jason to contact his counterpart at the identified research companies to alert them to the situation that he had discovered in the interview?

♦If research was done as the computer peripheral manufacturer suggested, what would be appropriate actions for competitors?

– Is there a basis for a fraud action by . . .

A competing computer peripheral manufacturer against its competitor?
A research company that would do the study as suggested?
A research facility that would allow the described research to take place in their facility.
Should an employee be terminated for revealing research results or business plans to a competitor, even if he/she is tricked into doing so?
Should a researcher be terminated for revealing research results or business plans to a competitor, even if he/she is tricked into doing so?
Is any research activity acceptable when you are trying to learn about a competitor’s practices or plans?

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