F&M Stories

Students Closely Examine Ethics in Business

Meet seniors Iman Jaikishan and Jas Fuhrer, studying for their degrees in Franklin & Marshall College’s business, organization & society major (BOS). Last semester, their business course took them outside the classroom to evaluate the ethical practices of selected local companies.

“I think this experience definitely will add value to my skills level in my post-graduate career,” Jaikishan says. Fuhrer agrees, saying “Interviewing and evaluating organizations and their head officers was extremely valuable.”

F&M partners with Lancaster’s Samaritan Center to provide student training and experience in evaluating best business ethical practices. Students in this BOS course worked with the nonprofit to research and vet a list of Samaritan’s Ethics in Business Award nominees.

“They did web research, interpreted survey data the nominees’ employees completed about their company’s ethics, and conducted site visits with a community business leader to interview a number of the company’s employees about its ethics,” Professor of Organization Studies Nancy Kurland says.

Enron Rules of Ethics

This week, the campus community will hear two former corporate executives who faced ethical challenges working for Enron. Once the seventh-largest company in the United States, Enron filed the largest bankruptcy in U.S. financial history in 2001 because of corporate fraud and accounting malfeasance.

A former vice president and accountant who blew the whistle after discovering irregularities, Sherron Watkins will share her experience Oct. 26 at 11:30 a.m. at Common Hour, F&M’s weekly campus conversation.

Prior to Watkins' lecture in the Barshinger Center, former Enron Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow, who hired her and sought to fire her after her whistleblowing report to CEO Kenneth Lay, will speak to students and faculty about his role in the accounting scheme. 

“He does speeches on ethics: ‘This is what I did; this is how I blurred the ethics line in the gray area,’” Scott Snyder, Samaritan’s director of consulting, says. "We have two really interesting speakers and it’s one of the first times they are going to be together in the same venue."

Fastow, Lay and other Enron executives were convicted of wire fraud, conspiracy and other charges. Lay died before he was sentenced to prison. Fastow served six years.

Watkins, along with two other women whistleblowers, made the cover of Time magazine in 2002. She is co-author of Power Failure, the Inside Story of the Collapse of Enron (2003).

Under its Ethics In Business program, Samaritan, sponsor of these campus events, Snyder worked with BOS students researching the nominees (Church World Services, YWCA of Lancaster, Eurofins, Sunshine Corners, Traditions Bank, and Bailey Coach) for this year's award. 

“We have a vetting process so we trained the students and they spent the next two months – from the middle of February to the middle of April – working on the vetting,” he says.

Kurland says, “The students in my senior seminar last spring helped to create the vetting process for that award. They wrote up their findings in a 20-plus page report that the Samaritans used to help determine the award recipient.”

Prior to Fastow's talk, two BOS seniors who display high ethics will receive scholarships of $2,500 each and Samaritan will announce its award recipient.

“As a nonprofit offering counseling to all people in the community, and through its sponsorship of the F&M events, Samaritan will be able to provide nearly 1,000 counseling sessions for people in the community that can’t afford it,” Synder says.

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