Business Ethics Case Study
Peter Paulson's offer to provide the previous case documents to Steven Craig is professionally unethical but morally permissible. In addition, I believe that the offer was not theft but possession by entitlement and permission. His actions are a great example of how professional ethics and morals don't always align in the analysis of a case.
Peter Paulson's offer although helpful commits the Texas Board of Professional Engineers code. As an expert witness for a previous case against PPC, Peter Paulson was exposed to certain documents which would help with the current case against the same company. The code states in 137.63.c.4 that "The engineer ...view middle of the document...
By omission the PPC company gave Peter permission to have the documents.
(2a) Peter's offer is morally permissible due the self-defeating test. If the process of paying off people for documents was universally accepted, it would not affect the efficiency of Peter's offer. In other words, if it became common practice to make offers like Peter's, it would not be self defeating because he Steven and Peter would both still benefit. The reason why they both benefit is because the offer has no negative affect on any collateral group or person. Ultimately no one gets abused in the deal and so the transaction allows everyone to make the same possible deal without being self-defeating. Therefore Peter actions were validated by failing the self-defeating test and ultimately morally permissible.
(2b)An act utilitarian perspective of the offer shows that Peter's fee was morally permissible. The greatest good of all the people involved in the lawsuit would be to pay Peter's fee and expedite the process of getting money for the families. Accepting the offer creates the most happiness because: (1) from the perspective of Peter, he gains $25,000, (2) from the lawyer's and families' perspective the documents are received two weeks early, (3) the case ends earlier and the families receive their money faster, (4) the PPC company loses money from the settlement and potentially some employees. The most important feature of the offer is the chance for the families to end the case early. A quick settlement would end anxiety for the family and resolve financial issues. The fee would be a small price to pay compared to the waste of two weeks enduring the gruelingly slow pace of the court system. Although Peter's offer is professionally unethical it does not mean that it is morally wrong. The utility that is created through accepting the offer and gaining the documents would compensate for the unprofessional exploit. Because act utilitarianism is focused on creating the greatest good for the majority then Peter's actions are morally permissible.
Table 2. Line drawling of "The Offer" showing theft (Peter's perspective)
Feature Theft The Offer Not Theft
Possession vs. Ownership Possess/ Not own ---X--------------------------------- Not Possess/ own
Intention Sell ---X-------------------------------- Share
(1) Peter's ownership of the documents was theft based on the features of possession vs. ownership and intention. Peter possessed the documents from the previous case yet did not own them. When property is possessed and not owned it constitutes theft. Peter's intentions with the documents were to sell them to make money. His greedy actions show that documents were stolen and verify theft.
(2a) Peter's offer can be shown to be morally impermissible by the rule utilitarian approach. Suppose that a rule was placed into effect that stated: expert witnesses never can sell or receive payment for securing admissible documents. The rule would...