Chapter 1
A Personal Engineering Ethics
Threshold
3
A warning is in order as you begin to read this book: this textbook is
different. Unlike other engineering ethics texts, this one is written from a
personal perspective by an engineer who currently works in industry. Over
the course of two decades, I have witnessed a decline in business ethics,
which culminated with the Enron and WorldCom scandals of 2001–2002. My
own anger and disbelief stems from the Bell Laboratories nanotechnology
fraud of September 2002, during which the fundamental nanotechnology
results of one scientist were found to be completely fabricated, leading to
retractions of articles in the journals Science and Nature. Having worked at
AT&T Bell Labs in the 1980s, when it was known for its high standards of
excellence, I could not understand how its operating procedures could have
plummeted (Baura, 2005). Of course, this was before I discovered that
Lucent, which now owned Bell Labs, improperly reported $1.148 billion in
revenue and $470 million in pretax 2000 income, causing the Securities and
Exchange Commission to fine Lucent $25 million (Young and Berman,
2004); was still in recovery from the telecom crash; and lost $28 billion over a
24-month period, from 2001 to 2003 (Berman, 2003).
I view the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Corporate Reform Act of 2002 as a
positive step. Although not perfect, it goes a long way toward making
public corporations accountable for their behavior. SOX has created
an environment in which corporations have realized the importance of
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