198 Engineering Ethics: An Industrial Perspective
I would not have done anything differently. I was working on another
project, and couldn’t affect the situation.
I left the company 9 months after my start date. This situation was
one of the primary reasons I left because it exemplified my company’s
ethics. I had no doubt that I would soon be faced with a similar situa-
tion in my project if I did not leave. All our projects were custom
My company wrote long legal contracts for every project, with clauses
and penalties for nonperformance. I later learned that my company had
a reputation for resolving many issues through litigation. Performing
to the exact wording of the contract was the first priority, with real
world product performance and customer satisfaction being a secondary
Ethics Dilemma Scorecard
Public Safety & Welfare
Data Integrity & Representation
Trade Secrets & Industrial Espionage
Gift Giving & Bribery
Principle of Informed Consent
Conflict of Interest
Accountability to Clients & Customers
Fair Treatment
The CEO asked me to present my research data at his next
Executive Committee meeting. I showed my slides to my boss, the VP
of R&D, before the presentation to make sure we were in sync. What
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Anonymous Industrial Engineering Ethics Cases 199
I presented that day were the results of improvements over the course
of 1 year to an old product that improved its performance statistic by
40%, a substantial improvement. After discussing how the improve-
ments had been accomplished, I detailed how I had started a clinical
study to validate this result. The clinical validation would be complete
in 7 months.
The CEO and most of the VPs were impressed, and congratulated me
on my work. But the VP of Marketing then pointed out that he had been
responsible for publishing a paper on the old product with a performance
statistic 130% over internal results, so new results would have to work out
to at least a 190% improvement over internal results. Otherwise, the
improvement wouldn’t be enough to sell more products and raise our
stock price. I replied that, based on results to date, it was impossible to
reach 190%. I then said I couldn’t change my clinical protocol, and my
boss backed me up. To end our heated discussion, the CEO then said, “Let
research do what research has to do, and then business development will
take over. In the context of our discussion, that meant handing over my
clinical data to Marketing once the clinical validation was complete, so
Marketing could publish the data. I looked around the room, and saw no
support for my position, except from my boss. Apparently, SEC fraud was
not a problem for them.
Every few weeks during the clinical validation, the VP of Marketing
would send me e-mail to see if the clinical validation was on schedule and
if results could be available sooner. Each time, I responded that there was
no way to speed up the study. Before the end of the clinical validation,
I found another job.
Well, since this occurred in the post–Sarbannes-Oxley era, I could
have filed an anonymous complaint, which would have gone directly
to the Audit Committee, a subset of the Board of Directors. Even
though the complaint would have been anonymous, it would have been
obvious that either my boss or I complained. The Board of Directors
loved my CEO. I had the feeling that they would side with the CEO, not
me. And because several of the members of the Audit Committee were
retired executives from the medical device industry, I would end up
blackballed. It just wasn’t worth it. That’s why I left. And that would still
be my decision today.
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