ETHICAL DILEMMAS. What would you do? 2: ANSWER SHEET

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1 ETHICAL DILEMMAS What would you do? 2: ANSWER SHEET If you have concerns at work you most probably have a dilemma! The longer you leave resolving it, the more chance there is for there to be repercussions for the organisation, yourself and the standing of the profession. Practice resolving the dilemmas in the five case studies with help from your professional code and the checklist below. Decide which principles of the code are affected and what steps you should take to resolve the dilemma. Then look at the answer sheet to see if your answers reflect CIMA s guidance. CIMA does not supply legal, investment, professional, or career advice. If you consult the Professional Standards & Conduct Department, whether by or telephone or in writing, the information and comments if any made by our staff are given in good faith and for the purpose of general guidance only.

2 2 ETHICAL DILEMMAS: ANSWER SHEET CASE STUDY ONE: TAKEOVER INFORMATION You are financial director of a large multinational organisation and have been privy to information about a takeover bid to acquire a rival firm. A family friend is considering selling shares in this rival organisation and has asked you, as an expert in the industry, for advice on this matter. This situation has a clear impact on your integrity fair dealing and truthfulness. Your obligations in this instance are to confidentiality. Your objectivity would be at risk if you allow a personal relationship to influence the ethical and legal responsibilities you have to your employer. You have a duty to maintain professional knowledge, to act diligently in accordance with professional standards and to uphold legal and regulatory requirements. You have an obligation to refrain from disclosure of information outside the firm or employing organisation. You cannot compromise your professional judgment as a result of a personal relationship. Personal relationships can sometimes compromise your objectivity it is important that you know what your obligations are and that you act with integrity. In this case, you have obligations of confidentiality both in relation to your organisation and in financial regulation. In advising your family friend, you would not only risk losing your job, but are also compromising your professional judgement, integrity and future career. You should decline to discuss the issue See sections in the CIMA Code of Ethics: 120, 140, 150, 340

3 3 CASE STUDY TWO: WITHOLDING INFORMATION You are a CIMA member who is a non-executive director of a large services company. The board of directors meets on a monthly basis to discuss the quarterly forecast and other business issues. It is the responsibility of the finance director to distribute papers at least two weeks prior to the date of the meeting. These papers should first be signed off by the CEO. Recently documents have only been received a day before the meeting. You have raised this with the finance director who has stated the delay is due to the sign-off by the CEO. You do not feel that you are given sufficient time to review the papers and also believe the information that is available is not complete and therefore difficult to fully appraise. The CEO is a dominant character and many members of the board are nervous about broaching the matter. You need to uphold your integrity by addressing the matter there is a need to be straightforward and honest. Your objectivity is being compromised not only on the basis of lack of full and timely information, but also the perceived threats of the CEO s behaviour. You need to have full and correct information in a timely manner in order to carry out your role. You would be expected to resolve the issues internally where possible without disclosing confidential information. Your professional behaviour is being compromised without addressing the issue and you would not be discharging your duties (and nor would your colleagues). Without sufficient information in good time for the meeting, you will not be able to act with sufficient expertise. In this situation, acting with integrity means that you have to address the matter in a straightforward manner. As suggested by the principles affected above, this is an internal matter that you should at first hand try resolve within the organisation. Revisit the issue with the finance director and CEO in writing and be sure if the issue continues to have it on the agenda of the next board meeting. This issue has to be resolved satisfactorily in order for you and your colleagues - to be able to carry out your role in a professional manner. See sections in the CIMA Code of Ethics: 110, 120, 330

4 4 ETHICAL DILEMMAS: ANSWER SHEET CASE STUDY THREE: POSSIBLE INSOLVENCY As financial controller at a manufacturing company you have been advised by a colleague that the sales director is unlawfully declaring fuel benefits as the tax value is high. This has been creating higher profit margins and if declared those margins will go down. There is potential that this could push the company into insolvency, which would result in job losses for 300 employees. You have made the other directors aware of the situation but they have expressed a wish not to disclose the misleading tax bill. You are aware that by declaring this information to the tax authorities, as required by law, that the organisation may have to declare insolvency and the 300 employees could lose their jobs. By not declaring the unlawful tax benefits your integrity is clearly compromised. Firstly, you need to ascertain the facts. Your objectivity is threatened by the perceived threat of job losses. The short-term and unlawful actions to increase margins will not help the business model in the long-term. By not declaring you are undermining both your professional competence as well as not acting with due care and diligence as a professional accountant. In this case there may a legal and professional right and duty to disclose. The issue will not go away and you will be seen as complicit when the issue unfolds. There is a need to comply with the relevant law and regulations on this matter. By failing to declare your actions both discredits the profession and put you in disrepute. Firstly you must be clear that there is an issue and find out the facts. Should you find that fuel benefits are being unlawfully declared you should take action. In this situation, you have to think about the long-term effects of your actions. By not declaring the misleading tax bill the organisation might keep afloat for the moment but it will not make the issue go away, and it will not necessarily save the jobs at risk in the long run. Doing this would severely damage your integrity and professional competence, and risk your reputation and future career. You are legally required to disclose all information. This is clearly a tough decision to make, as jobs are at risk, but by refraining from reporting you will only worsen the situation and by self declaring there may be ways to negotiate a resolution with the authorities. The issue needs to be raised urgently with the line management and, if necessary escalate with options available to them. See sections in the CIMA Code of Ethics: 110, 120, 310, 320

5 5 CASE STUDY FOUR: FAMILY ISSUES You are a CIMA student employed as a company secretary for a small family owned limited company. The board is made up of family members, with only one family member holding an executive position as managing director. There are some disagreements within the family regarding the will of the recently deceased chair of the board, the mother of the family. The board have twice voted to pay pension contributions to one of the members of the family on the board as non-executive director, a brother of the managing director, and this has been approved by majority in meeting. However, you have since been advised by the managing director not to make the payment. You need to remain straightforward and honest both with the managing director and the board. You cannot allow the undue influence of family issues to override your professional judgment. There is a need to act diligently in accordance with professional standards, the decision has been approved by the board. You will not compromise confidentiality by further raising the issue with the board. Failure to carry out the board s actions may mean failure to comply with relevant company regulation, against your professional duty. As the issue have already been approved by the board, this situation risks putting you in a position where you fail to comply with company regulation and your professional standards. To resolve this issue you need to be honest and straightforward towards all parties involved. Make sure to act professionally, and not to let family issues influence your judgment. See sections in the CIMA Code of Ethics: 110, 120,

6 6 ETHICAL DILEMMAS: ANSWER SHEET CASE STUDY FIVE: EMPLOYEE ISSUES You are a CIMA member who has recently joined a limited company that processes food. The company is effectively run by one director. The other directors are non-executive and all have close personal relationships. As a key member of the finance team you have discovered that some employees are being paid cash in hand and not via the formal payroll. You also have suspicions that some of these people are being employed illegally and you have no records of their formal employment documents or contracts. The situation demands that you are honest and straightforward with your concerns with the management. Your objectivity could be compromised if you are unable to obtain the full facts. You will be required to act competently and diligently in relation to relevant legislation and professional standards. If you are unable to resolve the issue internally you may need to consult externally, particularly if legal requirements are being breached. You will need to bring the attention of the management to the risks and also to the need to act within the law and fairly with employees. It is crucial that you act with integrity in this dilemma. Before you do anything else, make sure that you get all the facts. Once you know what is going on if employees are working illegally you should raise your concerns with management. Inform them that this is a legal matter that cannot be ignored, and what the risks are if they do not take action, as well as advising on what steps can be taken to resolve the issue. In the event they should not respond to your concern you may be obliged to consult someone externally. You have a responsibility to act professionally and competently and to not compromise your own integrity. See sections in the CIMA Code of Ethics: 120, 150, 310, 320

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