The Corporate Morality Hypocrisy

[Barney’s office at Goliath National Bank. As the scene opens, Barney is on the phone with a business associate.]

Barney:        The new shredder in my office is junk. It can only shred 100 sheets at a time. My old one could handle 250 (well, it could until I shoved my seven iron in it). Get a new 250-sheet one here by tomorrow … Why don’t we buy from that supplier anymore? … Listen, if we avoided suppliers that utilized forced child labor, we wouldn’t have any supplies at all … I don’t care if they have to work 16-hour days … They make a damn good shredder, so get one here by tomorrow.

[Marshall enters as Barney hangs up the phone]

Marshall:    Did you know that we’re suing the federal government?

Barney:        Yeah, over Obamacare. Who isn’t?

Marshall:    Good point. There are about 75 similar lawsuits around the country. But doesn’t it seem a bit strange that we would be one of them?

Barney:        We sue people all the time. If we’re going to have lawyers on staff, we should use them.

Marshall:    That’s not the point. We’re suing because we don’t want to pay for our employees’ health care costs associated with contraception.

Barney:        Of course we don’t. That crap’s expensive.

Marshall:    Right, but we’re arguing in court that we shouldn’t have to pay for it because we are morally against contraception. I’m not sure a corporation can be morally against something … especially this corporation.

Barney:        I don’t follow.

Marshall:    We don’t allow maternity leave. We’re a massive polluter of the environment. We fired 500 employees last quarter to raise our share value by a ¼ point. How can we possibly object to Obamacare on moral grounds?

Barney:        Well, we might win. And if we win, we’ll save money.

Marshall:    How can we win? The argument doesn’t make sense. Corporations are not moral entities. How could they be? Morality is a human trait. It springs from having a conscience and a system of beliefs. Corporations have neither. Courts have actually ruled that corporations are legally barred from acting morally at the expense of earning money.

Barney:        Ya know, you might want to breathe every once in a while. You’re turning red — it’s not a good look on you.

Marshall:    In a 1919 case called Dodge v. Ford Motor Company[1], the Michigan Supreme Court settled a dispute between Henry Ford and the Dodge brothers, who were minority shareholders in Ford Motors at the time. The company had excess money, due to the huge success of the Model T. The Dodge brothers wanted the money to be distributed to the shareholders, in the form of a special dividend. Henry Ford argued that the money should be used to build more plants. By doing so, Ford Motors could employ more workers and also drive down the price of cars, both of which would benefit society. As Henry Ford put it, “My ambition is to employ still more men, to spread the benefits of this industrial system to the greatest possible number, to help them build up their lives and their homes. To do this we are putting the greatest share of our profits back in the business.”[2] The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the purpose of a corporation is to benefit its shareholders financially. Thus, it was improper and against the law for Ford Motors to elevate a moral concern for the interests of society above the financial interests of the shareholders. The Court ordered Ford Motors to pay the dividend. Are you still listening?

Barney:        Ha! No. But I just closed a $5 million deal. They have plenty of elephants in Botswana, right?

Marshall:    The point is that corporations shouldn’t be able to have it both ways. They should either follow a moral code or not. Corporations constantly justify all the terrible things they do by arguing that morality doesn’t apply to them. If courts want to rule that corporations are amoral entities that exist solely for the financial gain of shareholders, so be it. But corporations shouldn’t be able to turn around and ask for an exception to Obamacare because they have moral objections to contraception. It’s like when you asked me to figure out a loophole in the Bro Code after you slept with Robin. Nobody invokes the Bro Code more than you do. But the moment it started working against you, you wanted a way out.

Barney:        [thinking] So, I am a corporation in this example … Can I still sleep with chicks?

[End scene.]

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2 Responses to The Corporate Morality Hypocrisy

  1. I am contemplating setting up my own personal blog. Would you supply a number of ideas?

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