Ethics: Ethical Question - Knowingly Violating a Regulatory Requirement

R

RosieA

#1
Ethical question

A QA friend of mine called me this morning with a dilemma that I said I'd post and see what other QA folks think.

His company knowingly violated a regulatory requirement, with the decision made by the company's president. QA was bypassed and found out after the fact, by accident. The violation in no way compromised the product itself.

In the good faith belief that the president did not understand the consequences of what he'd done, my buddy wrote him an email and made him aware of them. The president's reply was that it was his risk to take and it was unlikely to be found in a regulatory inspection.

My friend's question is this: What should/could he do now? Let it sit?
 
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CarolX

Super Moderator
Super Moderator
#2
Re: Ethical question

RosieA said:
In the good faith belief that the president did not understand the consequences of what he'd done, my buddy wrote him an email and made him aware of them. The president's reply was that it was his risk to take and it was unlikely to be found in a regulatory inspection.
Ouch...tough position to be in. For the president to say it was "his risk" is wrong. He is willingly in this business, and with that come the good, bad and the ugly. This time it did not effect product quality, but what about the next time, will the limits be stretched even further.

This situation is probably symptomatic of a larger issue. Could the company be experiencing some tough times, hence the shortcut. This will probably result in some really serious issues down the road.

My move would be to bail out now, before the excrement starts to fly.

JMHO,

CarolX
 
D

David Hartman

#3
Re: Ethical question

RosieA said:
A QA friend of mine called me this morning with a dilemma that I said I'd post and see what other QA folks think.

His company knowingly violated a regulatory requirement, with the decision made by the company's president. QA was bypassed and found out after the fact, by accident. The violation in no way compromised the product itself.

In the good faith belief that the president did not understand the consequences of what he'd done, my buddy wrote him an email and made him aware of them. The president's reply was that it was his risk to take and it was unlikely to be found in a regulatory inspection.

My friend's question is this: What should/could he do now? Let it sit?
Beyond Carol's excellent advice, I would recommend your friend save that email and reply (if it were email as well). :ca: :bigwave:
 
C

Craig H.

#4
Re: Ethical question

This sure isn't any fun, Rosie. I'd have to agree with Carol. Time to circle the wagons and find a new place to work. This is both from an ethical and practical standpoint. As the stuff hits the air circulator, finding a job will be more difficult. Would you hire an Enron accountant, even if they didn't know?

As far as blowing the whistle, to me that would depend. If lives are at risk, though, its a no-brainer.

Wish them luck for me.

Craig
 
R

RosieA

#5
Re: Ethical question

So far, you're pretty much echoing what I told my friend. It's a lousy economy and, with kids and being the primary breadwinner, he's reluctant to jump ship, but also very concerned about having any association with this kind of company culture.

I've never had this experience. I wonder how pervasive it is, especially in a down economy?
 

CarolX

Super Moderator
Super Moderator
#6
Re: Ethical question

RosieA said:
I've never had this experience. I wonder how pervasive it is, especially in a down economy?
Rosie,

I went through something kinda similar. I don't think ii is the norm, even in a down economy. The consequences far outweigh the benefits. I think that desperation is the usual culprit.

I will use this example.....
Jane is a law abbiding citizen and a single mom of 2 kids. She has a job that pays her well. She has a decent car, a nice townhouse for her and the kids. Now, she is laid off through no fault of her own. She begins the job hunt, but things do not go well. After 3 months, she is working at a job that pays 2/3 of what she had, and she is having a tough time making ends meet. What are the chances she might do a little shop lifting at the grocery store????? Probably pretty good....and what are the chances she might continue this??? Who knows?

CarolX
 

Randy

Super Moderator
#7
Re: Ethical question

RosieA said:
His company knowingly violated a regulatory requirement, with the decision made by the company's president. QA was bypassed and found out after the fact, by accident. The violation in no way compromised the product itself.

My friend's question is this: What should/could he do now? Let it sit?
What type of regulatory requirement was it? Was it a really stringent or technical requirement or just one of those stupid things like not tying your horse in frot of the dry goods store if you're in the saloon? Was there any real potential harm or damage from this deviation?

There is such a thing as situational ethics and risk assumption. I was ethically bound to arrest everybody that I observed violating "the law" when I was a cop. If I had done so I would still be booking people from 1974 alone. I cannot tell you the number of times I kinda looked the other way.

There are laws and then again there are laws.

Have you ever exceeded the speed limit?
 
R

RosieA

#8
Re: Ethical question

A regulated label was altered from what was approved by the regulatory agency. I'd say more, but my buddy prefers I not get too specific. I believe the reason was to obscure from the customer the true manufacturing location of the item.
 

Randy

Super Moderator
#9
Re: Ethical question

I'd say there would be more potential here for fraud than regulatory non-compliance, but both come into play here.

If there is some consistency to this type of activity I would become really concerned. As it is, or as you stated, this is a type of anomoly.

As this appears to be documented and known in the company and the boss is assuming the "risk" your friend should continue to march. If future behaviour patterns indicate a continuance of this type of mentality, especially if it starts concerning any type of safety or serious fraud issues, other decision may have to be made on the part of your "friend".
 
#10
Re: Ethical question

I know of a company that does not even try to meet an air permit situation. They pay a fine every day for not meeting the permit. The feeling is that it is cheaper to pay the fine, than to make the changes. They don't even have the particular aspect listed as a significant aspect in their 14001. They claim, if their not going to do anything with it, why bother? Their registrar is aware of the situation.

This is completely different. I would feel a lot better if they let the responsible agency know about it (at least then it would not be behind everyone's back). I would also wonder what legal trouble your friend could be in if and when it is discovered? Could the email be used to send you friend up the river?

One other thing I've found over time. Any organization that willingly violates the law will be very quick to violate their employees. I agree...its time to monster.com
 
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