Hank Thaler: Ethics of Disclosure (A)

by: Andrew Hoffman

Publication Date: April 16, 2010
Length: 4 pages
Product ID#: 1-429-040

Core Disciplines: Ethics

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Teaching Note

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This ethics mini-case describes a dilemma faced by Hank Thaler, the CEO of a hypothetical financial services company, Big Bucks Inc. Hank brought success to Big Bucks and its shareholders by fostering an open atmosphere in the company. He sought his employees’ opinions in respect to major decisions, and he vowed to them that he would “never lie to them, never hide bad news, always keep them in the loop”. His loyalty to his employees would be tested when Big Buck’s majority stakeholder, Old Money Ltd., informed Hank that it had made an irrevocable decision to sell Big Bucks. Hank struggled as he decided whether to 1) inform his employees of the sale but risk employee desertion due to the ownership change, which would negatively impact shareholders; or 2) keep the sale a secret, protect his reputation with the new owners, and look out for his own financial well-being as an investor in Big Bucks. Hank Thaler (B) informs students of the decision that Hank actually made.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Ethical issues are often in the category of right versus right dilemmas, where both options have positive aspects.
  • Ethical reasoning requires that we work through the multiple elements of a right versus right dilemma.
  • Ethical dilemmas are often complicated by the fact that there are a variety of stakeholders in an organization that can have competing interests.
  • Behaving ethically is not always easy, and consequences can be steep.