Self-serving financial advice

As a business students, it has been drilled into our minds that the primary purpose of  business is to create value for shareholders.  A recent incident made me question this. My grandmother inherited some money from her father, and a banker convinced her to deposit it all into one of the bank’s mutual funds. This helped him to meet his sales quota, but even a freshman in business school knows that this is not a wise investment for a 65-year old. Wasn’t it unethical of him to take advantage of my grandmother’s trusting nature?

Contributed by a business student.

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Lying to parents

I overheard two girls I know having a discussion. One girl, whom I will call Maria, wanted to go out on the town alone. This was against her parents’ wishes, due to the risk involved. The girls agreed to tell their parents they were going to a mall together. Should I tell Maria’s parents what the girls are planning? If I do, the parents might ground Maria as well as lose trust in her.

Contributed by a high school student.

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Selling laptop with tired battery

Mohammed wants to sell his old laptop, which he has owned for a year and a half. Having bought a new one, he took the old laptop to a reseller. The laptop is in good condition, but there is a problem in the battery. The laptop will only work for two hours before a recharge is needed.  Mohammed didn’t mention this problem to the reseller, so as to sell the laptop at a higher price.

Contributed by a business student.

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Is street protest ethical?

Protests such as those of Black Lives Matter often disrupt the lives of others and may incite violence, even when a peaceful demonstration is intended.  They may also break the law and lead to arrests.  Does the cause justify these negative outcomes?

Contributed by an engineering student.

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Card counting in casinos

“Advantage players” use card counting and other techniques to boost their winnings in casinos.  Card counting is the practice of memorizing which cards have been dealt so as to predict better which cards may be dealt next.  Other techniques include statistical analysis or simulation of the game beforehand, exploitation of weaknesses in shuffling procedures, and so forth.  A recent New York Times Magazine article tells the story in detail.

Advantage playing is usually legal, even though casinos frequently eject advantage players when they can be identified.  But is it ethical?  Is it cheating?  Is it fair?

Essentially the same question arises in a more serious context.  Professional financiers are “advantage players” in the investment markets, relative to ordinary investors.  Their ability to analyze data and construct optimal portfolios gives them an edge.  Is this ethical?  Is it cheating?  Is it fair?

Contributed by a finance professor.

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Labor abuse at Amazon

Amazon requires warehouse workers to wait in long lines, without pay, to be searched for stolen goods before they are allowed to go home. The company has been repeatedly sued for this practice, only occasionally with success. Given this and other labor abuses at Amazon, is it ethical to buy merchandise from the company?

Contributed by anonymous

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Too friendly with subordinate of opposite sex

I work in a company with few women in leadership roles.  One of my colleagues, who is female, joined the firm about a year ago.  She is intelligent and driven and has a desire to advance.  When she first joined, she sought out a meeting with the Vice President in an attempt to gain visibility and better align herself with the company priorities.  As a result, the VP assigned her a few additional projects and recommended her for a training program that could lead to a promotion.

However, the VP has also started texting and calling my colleague, sometimes at night or on weekends. He even suggested that they run a race together in another city.  My co-worker is not married, but her superior is.  She finds the contact to be inappropriate but fears that saying anything, even to him, will limit her opportunities at the company.  She is also concerned that, by initiating a meeting with the VP, she bears some responsibility.

Contributed by anonymous

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Fleeing taxes

The overly aggressive tax system in the US is increasingly driving individuals to abdicate their citizenship. There are Federal, state and local income taxes, Medicare and Social Security taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, capital gains taxes, and on and on.  Is it ethical for citizens to move to a country where taxes are more reasonable?

Contributed by anonymous

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Gifts to customers

Diwali is a very big festival in India, and it is customary for companies to send gifts/sweets/cards to customers. Typically my company sends the same gifts (with the company logo) to all the customers. However, we were expecting a big order from one the customer, and I had a customer demo coming up. The sales manager asked me to hand over a bottle of scotch to the customer instead of the regular gift. I refused to do so, because I was not comfortable with this.

Contributed by anonymous

To comment on this dilemma, leave a response.  For anonymity, omit your email address and website, and use a screen name.To comment on this dilemma, leave a response.  For anonymity, omit your email address and website, and use a screen name.