Brilliant Madness – A case study

Zoe Field
is an immigrant and a single parent who is getting her first break into
corporate America in the early nineties. She is hired by a CEO of a small
start-up hi-tech company as the director of HR.


recruits and builds the HR infrastructure of the company, which is growing very
fast. The company goes public within a year, and begins to raise a lot of money
from the public. Zoe is given stock options and told that these options will
one day pay for her son’s college. She gets promoted and becomes a VP. She is
thrilled to learn about the stock market and how to raise money from the
public. Like many other employees in the company, she starts trading in the
stock market – including the company’s stock – and discovers the joy of making
fast money.


A year
later, while attending an investment conference in Chicago, Zoe calls to check
in with her staff and finds out that her company has been written up in the
newspapers on suspicion of violating stock exchange regulations – a charge that
the executive management strongly denies. The stock price drops, and the
company begins getting a lot of calls from irate investors. Zoe and other
employees with whom she is friendly are increasingly aware that the executive
team has been overselling the company products in an attempt to push the stock
price higher and raise more money from the public. Although Zoe does not know
to what extent the executive management is misrepresenting the company
finances, she begins to feel uneasy about what is happening. She has developed
a strong bond with her boss, the CEO, and finds it hard to think about him as a
dishonest man.

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company, which has grown to 500 people, is beginning to lose some of its
talented employees and to downsize. Zoe finds herself with less work and starts
getting involved in volunteer activities within her immigrant community. The
extent of her outside involvement becomes apparent and brought to her boss’s
attention. After a heart-to-heart talk, they agree that she will work part-time
in the company as long as she meets her responsibilities.  Zoe explores other opportunities and decides
to build her own consulting firm while continuing to work part-time for the


A year
later, Zoe gets her big break.  She finds
an important client and decides to leave the company. Her boss asks her to
recruit and train her own replacement before she leaves.  Zoe feels uncomfortable about bringing
someone to a company which is on a downturn and possibly engaged in illegal and
unethical practices.  However, out of
loyalty to the company and her boss, she undertakes to find her own replacement
and train him/her. She manages to find a replacement with whom she shares some
of the issues without fully disclosing the company’s situation; but a few
months later, this person leaves.  Zoe
finds another replacement and moves on before the second person quits.  Five years later, the company is sued for
stock exchange violations and the whole senior management is replaced.

respond to the following questions:

State your gut reaction without any explanation
and/or rationalization



Describe the types of ethical issues that Zoe and
the company faced from the perspectives of all the stakeholders.
Please explain your choices.  (for
example: Conflict of interest – be specific among what stakeholders;
discrimination, sexual harassment, confidentiality, cheating/stealing,
transparency, etc.)




State the goals in
solving the ethical dilemma form the perspectives of all the stake holders



Identify what
information is clear and what is the missing;  what questions to ask and/or assumptions
to make



5.       What
are the core ethical questions to ask and which philosophical model may help to
understand and solve the dilemma and why




Identify the cognitive biases to ethical decisions
that have been demonstrated in Zoe’s and the company’s behavior and
explain why. Please focus on the four congnitive biases described in
lesson three.





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