What Corporate Ethics Statements Say

by Robert Chatov



This article focuses on a specific set of behavior variables those dealing with employee misconduct. The most frequently mentioned of them have been selected for analysis. In some cases, similar variables (extortion, gifts and kickbacks, and use of insider information, or example) have been grouped to emphasize their importance in ethical statements. Extortion, gifts and kickbacks are of greatest concern to the corporation in the area of illegal employee misconduct. Entertainment is treated as a gift by many companies. Prohibitions against accepting entertainment are stated in terms of limited expense levels and frequency. Corporations generally express great concern over possible employee conflict of interest. Most companies prohibit any form of contribution to political campaigns out of company funds and falsification of corporate accounts and unrecorded funds. There is a substantial consensus among U.S. corporations on which areas of employee misconduct are of greatest concern. By no means is there unanimity or even consistency on how the individual areas are to be treated. Many corporations would be doing a more effective job in preparing their ethical statements if they considered a greater range of issues and different ways of dealing with them. Most corporate attention is given to areas with a potential for a dramatic impact on the corporation. That the corporation will be a transgressor or a victim is of most concern. This should not be taken to mean that corporations are occupied solely with misconduct in their ethics statements, Additional issues, relating mostly to the corporation's relation to the environment and the public at large, are visible in corporate ethics statements.

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