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BUS3003 Corporate Responsibility Ethics And Governance

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BUS3003 Corporate Responsibility Ethics And Governance

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Course Code: BUS3003
University: Australian Institute Of Higher Education

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Country: Australia

What is the moral and ethical responsibility of the whistle-blower to their employer and the public at large?

Ethical Decision Making Approaches & Theories
Explain which ethical decision making approaches and theories your relied upon to reach your conclusions and why.


Whistleblowing refers to calling attention to any wrongdoing that is taking place in organization. There are four ways to whistle blow as per the Government Accountability Project that comprise of reporting any wrongdoing or violations of the law to the suitable departments or government organs for instance the supervisor. Others include the failure to take part in the wrongdoing, testifying in a legal proceeding, or the most common which is leaking evidence of wrongdoing to the members of the fourth estate (Arce 2010).
Whistleblowing is not only rampant in the public sphere but also in the private sector as well. Scandals such as the one involving Enron Vice President Sherron Watkins and Tobacco executive Jeffrey Wingand are good examples of whistleblowing in the private sector. However, whistleblowing in the public sector is of more significance due to the very nature of the government. The actions of the ruling regime are required to be candid advocating for full exposé of wrong and unlawful conduct. Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge that not all problems are because of the government doing some are subject to outside vendors, government contractors, and various civil servants in different levels of governments who can breed government corruption (Kondrath 2014).
Whistleblowing is closely associated with ethics as there is a direct link between the person’s understanding and their actions. This association is at a deeper level, that whatever is occurring around their vicinity for instance at their place of work is both wrong and poses a great threat to those it affects. The wrongful act impedes on the rights of the people, is biased, and detracts from common good. Whistleblowing also incorporates merits such as valor as the repercussions are punitive at times. In essence, the law is supposed to protect the whistleblowers from retaliation, the orchestrators of the crimes exposed by the whistle blower feel threatened and can react by marginalizing and forcing out the whistleblower from their respective offices. There have being cases where whistleblowing has being rewarding to the blower by an accelerated rise in their careers (Lavena 2016a).
Mechanism of whistle blowing
Ravishankar urges companies to encourage internal whistleblowing so that the issue can be handled internally before the whistleblower sees the need to expose the crimes outside the organization. The same applies to various government bodies whereby it is essential for it to detect, acknowledge, and act upon the problem early enough before any harm is done. This can be achieved by putting in place policies about illegal or unethical practices at the place of work. Such policies may include instituting official mechanisms for reporting wrongdoings and crimes for example having a hotline or mailboxes. Other mechanisms include encouraging employees to come clean on any wrongdoing witnessed in the cause of discharging their duties, and adequately worded notices on sanctions on retaliation. Internal whistleblowing can be done through getting endorsement of the policy from the top officials and making public their commitment to the process. Those elected to public offices must uphold and hold their staff to high standards by punishing actions that would have a negative impact on the organization. Any issue raised should be adequately investigated, followed up, and proper reports filed(Sowmya & Rajashekar 2014).
Brief history of the organization
Edward Snowden was a former employee for the Central Intelligence Agency before becoming a government contractor. The 29 year old leaked news to the media about how the National Security Agency has an infrastructure that amass illegally massive quantities of data on phone calls and emails sent by American citizens. The illegal tapping extends to files from foreign governments and outside American connections. The interview video posted by the Washington post and the Guardian states,
“The N.S.A. has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your e-mails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your e-mails, passwords, phone records, credit cards. I do not want to live in a society that does these sort of things… I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under… (Carlson, n.d.)”
According to Snowden, the NSA had in place intercepts on the undersea fibre optic cables around the world giving them access to global communication lines. Moreover, there were secret courts that compelled telecommunication companies to give the NSA private data. He also made allegations about the involvement of the Silicon Valley whereby the NSA had direct access to the tech giant’s servers. He also claimed that there were secret backdoors into online encryption software’s that made secure bank transfers traceable (Carlson, n.d.).
Discussion of the case
The US government states that the leak by Snowden was a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917, which equates the leakage of state secrets to treason whose punishment is death. The Federal criminal complaint filed by the government charged Snowden with thre distinct felonies including the unsanctioned exposé of the state defense information, the unauthorized release of communication intelligence information and the embezzlement of government property. The government was of the idea that the leaks did more harm than good. By the time the leak was made public, Snowden had already fled to Russia. The intelligence committee adopted an intense report on the actions of Edward Snowden claiming that the leak castigated by Snowden on top secret documents and other secret government affairs threatened national security. The intelligence committee in its report was of the view that the information in the leak was wrong, exaggerated, and full of crucial omissions (Carlson, n.d.).”
In as much as he was aware that his actions amounted to a crime, he was willing to return from exile only if he would be assured of a fair trial. Nevertheless, Snowden argues that his actions were driven from a moral perspective. His justification was that he had a duty, “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” According to him, the manner in which the government violated privacy contrary to what the public believed was wrong and was supposed to be exposed for the people to know the extent of government surveillance on its own people regardless of how legal his actions were. The Government Accountability Project defended Snowdens’ actions claiming that his actions were driven by a sense of public good. They state that, “Snowden may have violated a secrecy agreement, which is not a loyalty oath but a contract, and a less important one that the social contract a democracy has with its citizenry (Carlson, n.d.).”
The issue here is the moral and ethical responsibility of the whistle-blower to their employer and the public at large. The legality of his actions is not in question as his actions clearly violated the law as per his contractual obligations during his tenure, but his ethical culpability. He is not ethically culpable as the law in itself is unjust and unconstitutional. The Attorney General Eric Holder was of the idea that his actions posed a threat to the national security to which he was supposed to be held accountable for his actions. Whistleblowing in its nature contradicts ethical values and laws in an organization or government.
When all internal channels of dealing with the issue internally have failed, then it is time to seek outside intervention in the case. Whistle blowers in the public spectrum are confronted with the possibility that their expose amounts to a crime creating an ethical dilemma especially where the progressive transgression are severe with no end in sight without the crimes being brought to the public sphere (Ab, 2011).
Before the information is leaked, it is important to question the status of the information. The nature of the information speaks to the confidential nature, the proprietary nature, or the protection of such information. It is important to question whether there is a system in place that explicitly considers the information in question as restricted, classified, or protected information. Where the information meets all these standards then the leaker is faced with a rigid test of whether he or she wants to leak the information (Lavena 2016b). 
Another concern is whether the whistleblower has a precise responsibility, which is either legal or ethical to keep the evidence private. Alternatively, the bearer of the material has it only because someone else violated this very duty to retain the information as private. If this is the case, then the repercussion of such a revelation will be stiffer. The final consideration is whether the information is a private or a public affair. For instance, questions about one’s sexual preference, personal financial statements, or medical records are all private information. However, there are dilemmas where once private life or actions have an impact on the public sphere (Lavena 2016a).
It is important to assess the impact of the leak in terms of the common good. Where lives are at risk or monies or property meant for beneficial projects are being misappropriated then common good calls for exposure as the concerns of the public outweigh those of a few individuals. Furthermore, it would be important to evaluate whether the expose itself represents an actual wrongdoing or does it represent a policy disparity. Under normal circumstances, government business should be in the public domain and raising issues regarding this is often encouraged. Closed-door sessions, however, are secret for a reason. Exposure of sensitive information may be disastrous and should stay a secret provided the issue does not escalate to the level of misdemeanours (Dalton & Radtke 2013).
When considering the Snowden case, it would be important to question what the intention of the NSA was when tapping into private conversations and what was done with the data that was recorded. The aim of the NSA is to keep America safe from her enemies and to thwart any activity that may be a threat to the wellbeing of the nation. Bearing in mind the cost in terms of lives lost and property destroyed in the wake of 9/11, if by tapping into conversations and emails means that the US will never have to pay such a hefty price again, so let it be. However, caution must be administered, as the NSA must be held to a higher standard for the information gathered not to be used under improper circumstances. The tapping should have remained a secret and the information never brought to public as it put at risk years of surveillance work (Ahmad, 2012).
Ethical decision-making approaches and theories
Common good approach
The common good approach to ethics adopts a community that comprises of people whose own good has a direct connection to the good of the public such that as a community individual are bound to the quest of common values and goals. The approach can be traced back to the works of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero (Roman 2006). John Rawl refers to common good as that which certain broad state of affairs that are correspondingly there for everyone’s advantage. This way the social policies, institutions, social systems, and environment that we are dependent upon are beneficial to everybody involved (Devlin & Magill 2006). National security is vital to every citizen in the US and as such should be appreciated as common good. Common good calls us to consider ourselves as part of the same community as such evaluating the kind of community we would like to live in and ways to achieve such a desirable community. This can be done whilst paying tribute to individual rights to pursue their independent goals, which contribute to the overall common good. This way we appreciate and help advance the goals we share in common as a people (Nagy 2011).
There are no given automatic solutions to moral problems in existence. When faced with a moral and ethical issue, one must deliberate on the morality of the issue independently whilst keeping a watchful eye on both the facts in the issue as well as the ethics involved. Snowden exposure was faulty legally, and lacked any moral or ethical grounds to expose. Certain information must remain a secret for obvious reasons; he would have had moral high grounds if the data collected illegally was misused or used for wrong reasons. However, his expose proved otherwise. The surveillance has done more good than harm and has contributed to the well being of the people through National Security ( Brooks, R., Riele, K. & Maguire, M., 2017).
We do not want to live in a world where the government cannot maintain certain secrets that are meant to be kept hidden and away from the public sphere as they have a direct impact on the economy and security of the nation. The government has given powers documented within the constitution and they can execute their mandate towards the people in any manner they deem fit provided that their actions remain legal. Whether someone eavesdrops on my conversation, a peek at my private emails does not matter, what matters is what such a person does with the information. Hence, certain things are kept a secret for a reason and should remain as such. However, the government should be cautious and should be held to a degree of higher standards and the belief that all their actions are meant for the pursuit of common good.
 Ab, N., 2011. Work experience and whistle-blowing intention: The mediating role of ethical reasoning. ANZAM.
 Ahmad, S., 2012. Internal Whistle-Blowing Intentions: A Study of Demographic and Individual Factors. Journal of Modern Accounting and Auditing, 8(11), pp.1632–1645.
Arce, D.G., 2010. Corporate virtue: Treatment of whistle blowers and the punishment of violators. European Journal of Political Economy, 26(3), pp.363–371.
Brooks, R., Riele, K. & Maguire, M., 2017. Ethical Theories, Principles and Guidelines. In Ethics and Education Research. pp. 18–43.
Dalton, D. & Radtke, R.R., 2013. The Joint Effects of Machiavellianism and Ethical Environment on Whistle-Blowing. Journal of Business Ethics, 117(1), pp.153–172.
Devlin, B. & Magill, G., 2006. The process of ethical decision making. Best Practice and Research: Clinical Anaesthesiology, 20(4), pp.493–506.
Kondrath, S.R., 2014. Blow the whistle: Whistleblowing, moral decision making, and social psychology. In Cognitive Processes at Work—Insight Into Organizational Decision Making and Learning.
Lavena, C.F., 2016a. Whistle-Blowing. American Review of Public Administration, 46(1), pp.113–136.
Lavena, C.F., 2016b. Whistle-Blowing: Individual and Organizational Determinants of the Decision to Report Wrongdoing in the Federal Government. American Review of Public Administration, 46(1), pp.113–136.
Nagy, T.F., 2011. Approaches to ethical decision making. Essential ethics for psychologists: A primer for understanding and mastering core issues., pp.147–170.
Roman, R.M., 2006. Ethical coping: Deep and shallow approaches to ethical choice.
Sowmya, S. & Rajashekar, 2014. WHISTLE BLOWING PERCEPTIONS – A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF MALE AND FEMALE EMPLOYEES. Indian Journal of Commerce & Management Studies.

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