“All right, class. Welcome to the final online session of Clinton University’s Executive MBA Business Ethics seminar. I can see everyone is logged on.
“I know it has been nine long months, but this is the last chance before your exam to clear up any questions or misconceptions about the ethics of business.
“Who wants to take the first shot?”
“Professor Regardie, I’m something of a computer whiz, and let’s say that I had the opportunity to hack into a client’s computer network to find out the exact specifications for his new plant’s heating and cooling operating system. That way I could propose exactly the precise components, blow away all our competitors and tack on an extra margin of profit. Should I do it?”
“Mr. Johnson, didn’t you learn anything during our course work and seminars? I know you interned for the Republican National Committee last summer, but that is not what our program is all about. Further, if I were your superior, I would be forced to discipline you and send you to psychological counseling immediately.
“Professor, the other day at my dad’s golf club — I work for his company — we played a round with one of our big clients. We then had drinks at the bar, went to dinner with more booze and then, how do I put this, brought in some ladies for some extracurricular activities.
“After quite a bit of work, one of these ladies, I’ll call her Judy, managed to find out where the client is going to build his plant. The next day, we contacted a realtor and bought a large parcel across the street.
“Do you have any issues with this?”
“I certainly do. That may be how they do things in the movies and in California, but I’d fire you if you pulled any crap like that in my company. The only responsible course of action is to sell the property immediately and cease all business with this client.
“Who else has a question?”
“I do. I was driving through Texas when I stopped for a cup of coffee. I couldn’t help overhearing two long-haul drivers in the booth next to me. One guy was bragging about the load of a new top-secret hybrid seed that he was hauling from the lab to the test field. I could see he was wearing a United Hybrid Seed cap, so I quickly got up, paid my check, went out to the parking lot, found his truck, pulled back the tarp and scooped out a hatful of the seed. I then made a bundle auctioning it off to competitors in the field.
“Is there anything you would have done differently?”
“Sir, in all my years of teaching, this is one of the most despicable acts I have ever heard. I am shocked that you were not fired on the spot.”
Murmurs are heard across the high-speed Internet connections. The professor looks forlorn, and finally shrugs his shoulders. Then he resignedly addresses the students.
“I’d like to thank you all for taking this course. The exam is canceled. Clearly, there is nothing I can teach you. Congratulations: You’re all ready for executive-level positions in Fortune 500 companies.”
Bill Regardie was the founder and publisher of Regardie’s Magazine.