Santa Clara University Offers Business Ethics Course in New Open Online Course

Santa Clara University joins the world of open online education with the premiere of a business ethics course exploring the common and difficult decisions that confront professionals. This course will explore such daily dilemmas as pressure from management to falsify reports, resume white lies, and bullying rivals to get ahead.

Partnering with the new Instructure open online platform Canvas Network, Kirk O. Hanson, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at SCU, will teach “Business Ethics for the Real World.” The network is another outlet for the growing popularity of Mass Open Online Courses or MOOCs. The idea is anyone with Internet access can enroll in courses taught by some of the brightest minds in the world.

“We look forward to pioneering the MOOC concept both for Santa Clara and for the topic of business ethics,” says Hanson. “We can give the public a feel for the quality of education Santa Clara University students receive every day. We’re also thrilled the ethical framework we developed at the Markkula Center will be highlighted.”

While MOOCs have primarily focused on math and science, “Business Ethics for the Real World” will explore the role of ethics in business and offer practical advice on making decisions in the work place.

“This course is more than a standard lesson in business. It is driven by what we have learned from tackling real ethical issues with Silicon Valley companies. Anyone from San Jose to Shanghai can participate in the ethical dialogue taking place in Silicon Valley,” says Hanson.

While the course includes some ethical theory, it is designed to be approachable by anyone from the seasoned manager to someone just beginning their career. The course is the first of several being planned at Santa Clara. Future MOOC’s will address additional SCU areas of expertise, including social entrepreneurship.

Enrollment will be limited to 500 people for the pilot course running Jan. 25 to March 25. The University and Instructure are hoping to launch classes with unlimited enrollment after the pilot. Ten other schools, including Brown University, are participating in the initial course offering. Enrollment is open now on


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Shut down Funeral Home! Morris Carruth’s Body Missing! Guess you could call this an Ethical Problem?

As a funeral professional – it doesn’t get much worse than this!  Advanced Care Funeral and Cremation (Sacramento, CA) handled the service and remains of Morris Carruth who died of a heart attack on August 9th.  Now two months has past and the family is still wondering where the body remains are?  Meanwhile, the funeral home has closed shop

According to an article on Fox40 (the full article can be seen here).

“The new stress is now we can’t find his body. He was to be cremated after the funeral, they told us the body would be delivered to us in two weeks, and it never happened,” said Lisa Evans, Carruth’s sister.

Evans stopped by the company’s location along 29th Street after her calls went unanswered, but found the office cleaned out and closed.

“I called FOX40 News.”

We placed several calls on Evans’ behalf and found out Advanced Care Funeral Services had their license pulled by the State, and they were shut down.

The California State Cemetery and Funeral Bureau says they investigated the company for mishandling the remains of five people, and got a temporary restraining order.

But Evans was never contacted during the investigation, and her brother Morris was not one of the five remains found mishandled.

“I have noidea where he is and it’s a real messed up feeling,” said Evans.

While the funeral home is being investigated there is still no word on the location of the body of Morris Carruth.  The State’s investigation of Advanced Care Funeral Services also found the funeral director licensed to run the business was only working minimal hours, and was possibly having non-licensed people handling remains.

ETHICS and LEGALITY:  At times the choices we make – ethical choices – have unintended consequences – many that are also illegal.  If deceased human remains were mishandled due to cost considerations, that may be an ethical issue.  But, the disappearance of those remains moves past the ethical operation of a business to one that is potentially illegal.

The outcome thus far on this unfolding story is two fold: (1) a funeral home is shut down for reasons related to the operations of their business in an ethical manner; and (2) more importantly, a family doesn’t have closure following the death of their loved one.

Every choice has a consequence!  Wonder what motivated the family to select this funeral home and wonder what motivated the funeral home to act in the manner they did?


LATE BREAKING ADDITION: Body found (so they say) story in full here.

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“Business Obligations During Natural Disasters” – Recommended Business Ethics Blog by Chris MacDonald

Exceptional blogger and outstanding citizen – Chris MacDonald recently wrote a blog about the natural disaster affecting much of the mid-Atlantic and North Eastern part of the US.

Chris starts his blog with…”As Hurricane Sandy bears down on Atlantic City, New York, and (eventually) parts of eastern Canada, thousands of businesses large and small are faced with dilemmas related to doing business before, during, and after a potential state of disaster. Certainly some businesses won’t have a choice, as flooding either wipes them out or makes access impossible. The NYSE and Nasdaq have both made the unusual move of staying closed for the day today (Monday)

But others will have hard choices to make, and no easy formula for making such choices is at hand.”

The blog Chris wrote is worth a read and can be found here.

Chris MacDonald, Ph.D., is an educator, speaker and consultant in the realm of business ethics.  He teaches at the Ted Rogers School of Management, at Ryerson University in Toronto, where he is Director of the Jim Pattison Ethical Leadership Education & Research Program.

He is also a Senior Fellow at Duke University’s Kenan Institute for Ethics.

He has twice been declared one of the “Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior”, and has several times been named one of the “100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics”.

He has been writing The Business Ethics Blog since November of 2005. The blog is now exclusively syndicated by Canadian Business magazine.

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SC Ethics Commission – Who Contributes to South Carolina House and Senate Candidates?

If you want to know who contributes to SC House and Senate candidates then visit and click on “campaigns” then “public reporting” for more details.  The information is eye opening!

Contributions to SC House and Senate candidates are by and large funded by businesses.

S.C. Trucking Association: $107,250

S.C. Automobile Dealers Association: $94,420.12

Palmetto Leadership Council: $84,000 (1)

SCANA: $79,000

Progress Energy: $74,000 (2)

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough: $68,000

Friends of the Farm Bureau: $67,500

S.C. Bankers Association: $66,800

AT&T: $66,250

TitleMax: $62,750

A report by The State written by Adam Beam shared the following (the full report is here):

Among the top donors is the S.C. Trucking Association. It has given more than $107,000 to 120 candidates thus far for the Nov. 6 election. The S.C. Automobile Dealers Association has given more than $94,000.

Utility companies – SCANA, Progress Energy, Duke Energy, AT&T, Time Warner Cable and Verizon – have combined to donate more than $360,000.

Law firms – traditional donors in local politics – have opened their wallets, too, including: $68,000 from the Columbia-based Nelson Mullins law firm; $60,500 from the Association for Justice, formerly the Trial Lawyers Association; $45,000 from the Columbia-based McNair Law Firm; and hundreds of thousands from hundreds of attorneys across the state.

All together, donors – individuals and businesses – have contributed more than $12 million. Nine of the largest business donors alone – the Trucking Association, Automobile Dealers, SCANA, Progress Energy (now part of Duke Energy), Nelson Mullins, Friends of the Farm Bureau, S.C. Bankers Association, AT&T and TitleMax – made more than 5 percent of those contributions.

“Money talks at the Legislature,” said Democratic political consultant Tyler Jones, who also works with the House Democratic Caucus.

“They wouldn’t keep giving money if it didn’t work.”

“If you are not contributing and you’re not taking part in the process, and you come knocking on the door in January? Yeah, get in line,” Republican political consultant Luke Byars said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to sell a representative on your issue, but at least you have a chance to make your case.”

A good example is the S.C. Dental Association.

Records show it has donated more than $45,000 to candidates.

Earlier this year, the state Department of Health and Human Services decided not to include $3.75 million in its budget for emergency adult dental care for Medicaid patients. But lawmakers – pressured by the Dental Association – put the money back on the House’s budget agenda, when it would not have been discussed otherwise. Eventually, lawmakers decided not to include the money in the state budget.

HHS also has not included the money in its state spending request for next year. But that likely will not stop the Dental Association from asking for it again.

“I don’t think anybody is going to get everything they ask for just because they donate money. But I think it does help that you can at least have your issues heard,” said Phil Lantham, the Dental Association’s executive director.

QUESTION:  Are those who are making sizable contributions using the system as designed or do you feel that connection to legislators should be disconnected from political contributions?  In other words, is it ethical to assume that one who contributes should get more voice than those who don’t?


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Is Telephone Connection a “Right” that all US Citizens should Enjoy? Is it Ethically right to Provide an “Obama Phone” to the Poor?

“As a country we want everyone to have communications. Without a phone, you can’t get a job,” states Roger Entner, the founder of Recon Analytics, a wireless industry research and consulting firm. “I’m sure that Lifeline has literally saved people’s lives.”

What is Lifeline you ask?  Lifeline is a government-created program which is paid for by customer fees on most phone bills. The program overseen by the Federal Communications Commission, began in 1985 during the Regan administration with what was then a universal access initiative.   Conceptually this program started to provide low-income people access to a phone – of course then a phone was a land line and provide so that in the even of an emergency someone would have access to help.

Now however, the proliferation of mobile phones and the approval of Tracfone from the George W. Bush administration – in 2008 the FCC allowed wireless carriers – opened the door for wide spread use of mobile phones vs. land lines.

POLITICS:  Funny, but two Republican administrations paved the way for what is now being dubbed as the Obama Phone – and this video sure has helped.

How does this work?  I mean how does one get an Obama phone…?  A recent CNN report reveals the following:

If you’re eligible for other forms of government assistance like Medicaid or food stamps (the rules differ by state), then you qualify to receive a $9.25 per month phone subsidy.

Participating wireless companies will typically offer a free phone (paid for by the company), with an allotment of Lifeline minutes each month.

Lifeline subscribers can collect only one monthly subsidy, for either a landline or a wireless phone. Around 75% of them have chosen to go wireless.

Where does the money for Lifeline subsidy come from? You.

Take a look at your phone bill and you’ll see a charge — typically a few dollars a month — for payments to the “Universal Service Fund.” That’s the umbrella program covering various ventures, including Lifeline, that are designed to make telephone communications universally available to all Americans.

The government requires most telecoms to pay into the fund. The carriers then typically pass the costs on to their customers as a monthly surcharge. Last year, Lifeline accounted for 20% of the $8.1 billion Universal Service Fund distributed to support connections for rural areas, schools, hospitals and low-income individuals.

The ethical challenge seems now to be the political flashpoint regarding cost and benefit.  A bill was recently introduced to drop mobile phones from the Lifeline program.  Congressman Tim Griffin,  (R – Arkansas), blasted it as a “government-run, taxpayer-funded” boondoggle that’s “riddled with instances of abuse.”   Likewise, Senator Claire McCaskill, (D- Missouri), received a flyer inviting her to get a free cell phone even though with her Senate salary she didn’t come close to qualifying.  To many on both sides of the isle, it seems that Lifeline has become an example of a government program out of control.

ABOUNDING OPPORTUNITY: Tracfone is the US arm of a telecom empire controlled by Carlos Slim, (the world’s richest man).  Oh…and did I mention that Tracfone is the biggest player in the subsidized mobile phones for low-income Americans.  The CNN report goes on to say:

Tracfone now has more than has more than 4 million subscribers in its Lifeline program, called SafeLink, and collected $452 million last year from the program’s subsidies. That’s twice what it took in two years ago, and far more than any other provider. (The runners-up, AT&T (T, Fortune 500)and Sprint (S, Fortune 500), each collected around $274 million.)

The Lifeline cash is a substantial chunk of the $3.8 billion Tracfone generated last year in annual sales. The company is the American subsidiary of América Móvil, the Mexican telecom giant run by Carlos Slim, the world’s richest billionaire.

SO THE QUESTION IS – should this program be maintained from taxpayer dollars in it’s present form?  Likewise, are we, as a country doing good with the program (note there were 7 million households using this 4 years ago and 17 million household today) or is this an example of a good idea gone haywire?

Again CNN reports:

But in the days leading up the election, the booming Lifeline expansion is raising eyebrows. The program paid out $1.6 billion last year, more than twice the $772 million it spent in 2008.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS…Is Lifeline a worthwhile program?


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Greensboro NC Companies honored for Business Ethics

Three Greensboro-area businesses have been honored by the Better Business Bureau of Central N.C. with Torch Awards for Marketplace Ethics. 

Replacements, Ltd., CJ Medical Transportation Co., Inc., and Awards of Excellence were named winners in three categories that were based on the number of employees.

“The purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote trust in the marketplace,” Kevin Hinterberger, BBB president & CEO, said. “These three companies are role models for the way that business should be conducted in our community.”

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Illusion or Reality – the Ethics of Politics! Is Robert Murray acting in a Ethical Manner or is The New Republic on an attack campaign??

My interest in people’s actions relate to ethical behavior.  I am not interested in which candidate one might support in a presidential election (I have my pic but that doesn’t influence the content of this blog).  Having acted in an unethical manner in my past (distant thank goodness), I have come to understand that “every choice has a consequence!”  So the question at had is – are the choices that Robert Murray is making regarding his support of Mitt Romney fully ethical and above board?

The New Republic in an article on October 4th, 2012 reported the following:

In August, Romney used Murray’s Century Mine in the town of Beallsville for a speech attacking Barack Obama as anti-coal. This fall, scenes from that event—several dozen coal-smudged Murray miners standing behind the candidate in a tableau framed by a giant American flag and a COAL COUNTRY STANDS WITH MITT placard—have shown up in a Romney ad.

The ads aired even after Ohio papers reported what I was told by several miners at the event, a bit of news that an internal memo confirms: The crowd was not there of its own accord. Murray had suspended Century’s operations and made clear to workers that they were expected to attend, without pay. “I tell ya, you’ve got a great boss,” Romney said in acknowledging Robert Murray from the stage. “He runs a great operation here.”

The accounts of two sources who have worked in managerial positions at the firm, and a review of letters and memos to Murray employees, suggest that coercion may also explain Murray staffers’ financial support for Romney. Murray, it turns out, has for years pressured salaried employees to give to the Murray Energy political action committee (PAC) and to Republican candidates chosen by the company. Internal documents show that company officials track who is and is not giving. The sources say that those who do not give are at risk of being demoted or missing out on bonuses, claims Murray denies.

Coercion or not?  Read the following memo and judge for yourself.

Some argue that suggesting that we have all possible employees of Murray Energy Corporation in attendance is over the line.  Really?  If I owned a business and employed workers and was honored to have either Presidential Candidate hold a rally at my location, I, too, would encourage all employees to attend.  Honestly, I don’t see where there is a smoking gun here.

The New Republic points to another memo as evidence of undue coercion.  Here’s the document:

Again the question arises, is Robert Murray exerting undue influence over his employees or is he using the political system to his advantage?  It seems that he is doing nothing more than putting his influence and money where he sees the greatest benefit to he and his workers.  Does that make his actions unethical?


According to public data in the wiki section related to “The New Republic” the following is reported:

The magazine’s outlook is associated with the Democratic Leadership Council and “New Democrats” such as former US President Bill Clinton and Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, who received the magazine’s endorsement in the 2004 Democratic primary; so did Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in 2008.[5] Whilst defending federal programs, like Medicare and the EPA, it has advocated some policies that, while seeking to achieve the ends of traditional social welfare programs, often use market solutions as their means, and so are often called “business-friendly.” Typical of some of the policies supported by both TNR and the DLC during the 1990s were increased funding for the Earned Income Tax Credit program and reform of the Federal welfare system. Supply side economics, especially the idea of reducing higher marginal income tax rates, received heavy criticism from senior editor Jonathan Chait.[6] Moreover, TNR is strongly in favor of universal health care. On certain high-profile social issues, such as its support of same-sex marriage, TNR could be considered more progressive than the mainstream of the Democratic Party establishment. In its March 2007 issue, TNR ran an article by Paul Starr (co-founder of the magazine’s main rival, The American Prospect) where he defined the type of modern American liberalism in his article War and Liberalism:

Liberalism wagers that a state… can be strong but constrained – strong because constrained… Rights to education and other requirements for human development and security aim to advance equal opportunity and personal dignity and to promote a creative and productive society. To guarantee those rights, liberals have supported a wider social and economic role for the state, counterbalanced by more robust guarantees of civil liberties and a wider social system of checks and balances anchored in an independent press and pluralistic society.
—Paul Starr, The New Republic volume 236, pp. 21–24
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Ethics Violations filed against U.S. Rep. David Rivera – Another Florida elected official in trouble!

What’s up in Florida?  It seems that there has been a rash of ethics violations or issues that have come to surface out of the sunshine state.  I guess the sun isn’t shinning on everyone.  According to the Tampa Bay Times “U.S. Rep. David Rivera was charged Wednesday by state authorities with 11 counts of violating ethics laws for filing bogus financial disclosure forms, misusing campaign funds and concealing a $1 million consulting contract with a Miami gambling business while serving in the state Legislature.”

Investigators with the Florida Commission on Ethics found that Rivera’s secret deal to work as a political consultant for the Magic City Casino — formerly the Flagler Dog Track — created a conflict of interest for the lawmaker. The ethics panel also found that the Republican broke state ethics laws by failing to fully disclose his finances from 2005 to 2009.

Rivera signed a consulting contract with the Magic City Casino’s owners in 2006 to run a campaign to win voter approval for slot machines at Miami-Dade pari-mutuels. But Rivera had the money from the deal sent to Millennium Marketing, a company founded by his mother and godmother, records show. Rivera then received at least $132,000 back from Millennium — money that Rivera has called loans that did not have to be disclosed.

The ethics commission charges that the Magic City Casino was attempting to influence his vote in the Legislature, where Rivera had also backed legislation favored by the gaming industry. Both Rivera and Magic City’s owners have denied that the consulting contract was an attempt to influence legislation.

Now one has to believe that at some point Rivera had to have a remote thought that what he was doing just didn’t pass the smell test.  But even if it didn’t cross his mind, would it not make sense that he would seek the advice from a “trusted” adviser to determine if his choices might just be a violation of law?  You don’t have to have a naturally guided “true north star” in order to tap into someone who does have one and can offer integrity based ethical advice.

Rivera issued a statement Wednesday calling the ethics charges “false,” and criticizing the ethics commission for releasing its findings so close to Election Day.

“There is absolutely no legitimate reason for the Commission to have acted now on these old politically motivated claims, which have already been dismissed by other authorities, other than to try and influence the outcome of this election for its own agenda,” Rivera said.

The commission was originally scheduled to consider the complaints against Rivera on Sept. 6, but the hearing was postponed at Rivera’s request, records show. Last week, Rivera’s attorneys again tried to delay the case until after the Nov. 6 election, and Rivera himself contacted a commission member seeking a delay. Ken Pruitt, the former president of the Florida Senate, also tried to intervene on Rivera’s behalf, records show.

Natural behavior is what I’d call Rivera’s response.  It can’t be my fault – seems to be the mantra of those who find the fickle finger of justice point at them.  To say it’s politically motivated may contain some truth, but the fact remains that the actions were taken by Rep. Rivera.  Are they an ethics violation – perhaps that remains to be seen.  But, as I say in my seminars – EVERY CHOICE HAS A CONSEQUENCE!  It would seem that Rivera is experiencing the consequences of his challenging choices.

“We don’t choose the timing of our investigations,” Stillman said.

Can I say that I believe Stillman – NO.  But the ethics probe, whether politically motivated or not, is none the less the result of Rivera’s actions.

Rivera also filed false or incomplete financial disclosure forms between 2005 and 2009, the commission found. Investigators said Rivera should have reported the Magic City payments through Millennium as income, and he also failed to report some real estate and a small number of stock holdings.

The FBI and IRS are also investigating whether Rivera should have paid taxes on the Magic City money.

The ethics commission’s charges come as Rivera is facing a separate FBI probe into his suspected role in secretly financing the campaign of neophyte congressional candidate Justin Lamar Sternad, who ran in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary against Rivera’s current challenger, Joe Garcia. Rivera has denied any role in Sternad’s campaign.

If you live in the district that Rep. Rivera represents and have comments please know that YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!

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Politics, Business and Ethics – Miami-Dade Ethics Commission Exposes Public Servants In Ethics Investigation

Less than two years ago I had the honor of speaking at the Florida Association of Counties Annual meeting on the topic of Ethics.  I was told that Florida had the highest rate of incarcerated elected officials of any state – a statistic they were not proud of.  The purpose for my presentation – to wake officials up to the value of acting in an ethical manner and understanding the fact that “every choice has a consequence.”  Sad to say, apparently the message was not heard by all…

Today an article appeared in the Miami New Times related to a Miami-Dade Ethics Commission investigation.  According to the article:

To anyone with common sense, a town manager getting into business with his boss — the mayor — would seem like a stupid idea. But Golden Beach Mayor Glenn Singer and his subordinate, Town Manager Alexander Diaz, swore to investigators from the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission that they were completely unaware their partnership in a sub shop wasn’t on the up-and-up. To avoid a public hearing and hefty fines, Diaz sold his interest in City Slickers Subs & Salads in North Miami in August. Diaz and Singer also agreed to pay a $250 each for investigative fees.

Apparently the business relationship was dissolved in June of this year.  However, the Ethics Commission report spells out more of what was involved in what is an obviously conflict of interest and violation of the county’s conflict of interest ordinance.  The Ethics Commission reports according the Miami New Times…

According to two probable cause affidavits that had been prepared against Singer and Diaz, ethics investigators found out that the mayor chipped in $200,000 and the town manager threw in $50,000 for the restaurant venture. In an interview with New Times in June, Singer downplayed the partnership. “It was just a small investment in a small investment,” he said.

At the time, Diaz was awaiting trial on his second DUI offense in three years. He was arrested on February 24 after he was seen swerving across a median on Biscayne Boulevard near NE 99th Street, going 60 mph in a 35-mph zone. Diaz told New Times that his first DUI arrest in 2009 had been dismissed. Despite his legal troubles, Singer refused to suspend Diaz.

After receiving a call from ethics investigators, Singer insisted that he and Diaz did not know they were in violation of the county’s conflict of interest ordinance. To avoid a public hearing, Singer made Diaz sell his part of City Slickers to a third party.

LESSON: Every choice has a consequence!  That is a mantra that I teach and preach.  It is true in all aspects of life.  And while we humans aren’t perfect, we do have the ability to think and reason and in this case any reasonable man would look at the facts and circumstances and come to understand that public officials should do anything and everything to maintain their independence.  That’s just good ethics!

While the consequences in this situation seem insignificant, the reality is these two officials have their integrity questioned which likely will have a greater impact on their lives and political career as they move forward.  Sometimes the consequences don’t stop at the obvious.

Let’s hope that they have learned and serve as an example to others of what not to do!


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