Code of Conduct
The required, documented code of ethics speaks to a number of different issues, including:
6 Conﬂicts of interest
6 Equal employment opportunity (EEO)
6 Harassment-free workplace and work environment
6 Conﬁdentiality, inside information, and fair disclosure
6 Health, safety, and the environment
6 Respect for intellectual property rights
6 Protection and proper use of company assets, including electronic communication
6 Financial accounting and improper payments
6 Fair dealing and competition
6 Corporate communications
6 Political contributions and payments
6 International business (via the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977)
A key principle is that any corporation’s ethical obligations must, by definition, include
the treatment and management of its workers. In essence, SOX has given publicly traded
companies a much larger number of management issues to focus on and worry about, which
increases the possibilities and clarifies the definition of employee misconduct.
For example, a conflict of interest arises when an employee’s outside business or personal
interests adversely affect or have the appearance of adversely affecting that person’s judgment
at work. As a result, if an individual fails to disclose in writing anything that could place your
company at risk, like having an undisclosed family relationship with coworkers, customers,
suppliers, or competitors of the company, then discipline would typically result. Other ex-
amples of potential conflicts include:
6 Accepting a personal benefit that obligates an employee in any way to a customer,
vendor, or competitor.
6 Accepting or offering cash under any circumstances.
6 Taking a business opportunity away from the company by doing personal business with
a customer, supplier, or competitor of the company, except as a regular consumer.
6 Having a ﬁnancial interest in a customer, supplier, or competitor, other than less than
1 percent ownership of a publicly traded company.
In all these situations, employees have an affirmative obligation to disclose the potential con-
flict of interest, and corporations now have a vested interest in managing and documenting
what may formerly have been considered the “private affairs” of its workers.