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Ethical Decision-Making

Your review of the literature and professional ethics codes addresses the importance of resolving ethical dilemmas systematically and following established decision-making steps to resolve dilemmas effectively. As ethical codes do not provide specific solutions for ethical dilemmas, applying established ethical decision-making steps along with an understanding of established ethical codes is essential. Taking a systematic approach to ethical decision-making contributes to effective professional practice and ethical resolutions consistent with clients’ best interests.

In a 1,050- to 1,400-word (or 3- to 4-page) paper (excluding references and title page), based on the scenario below, discuss how you would apply systematic steps toward a resolution of the dilemma as a consultant hired by Wells Fargo. Discuss the specific steps of the decision-making model you would take in making an ethical decision. How might you include the client in making your decisions? In what way or ways is accounting for the ethics code important for decision-making? To support your responses, in addition to the required readings, cite at least two scholarly references.

Scenario
Wells Fargo was the darling of the banking industry, with some of the highest returns on equity in the sector and a soaring stock price. Top management touted the company’s lead in “cross-selling”: the sale of additional products to existing customers. “Eight is great,” as in eight Wells Fargo products for every customer, was CEO John Stumpf’s mantra.

In September 2016, Wells Fargo announced that it was paying $185 million in fines for the creation of over 2 million unauthorized customer accounts. It soon came to light that the pressure on employees to hit sales quotas was immense: hourly tracking, pressure from supervisors to engage in unethical behavior, and a compensation system based heavily on bonuses.

Wells Fargo also confirmed that it had fired over 5,300 employees over the past few years related to shady sales practices. CEO John Stumpf claimed that the scandal was the result of a few bad apples who did not honor the company’s values and that there were no incentives to commit unethical behavior. The board initially stood behind the CEO, but soon after received his resignation and “clawed back” millions of dollars in his compensation.

Further reporting found more troubling information. Many employees had quit under the immense pressure to engage in unethical sales practices, and some were even fired for reporting misconduct through the company’s ethics hotline. Senior leadership was aware of these aggressive sales practices as far back as 2004, with incidents as far back as 2002 identified.

The Board of Directors commissioned an independent investigation that identified cultural, structural, and leadership issues as root causes of the improper sales practices. The report cites the wayward sales culture and performance management system; the decentralized corporate structure that gave too much autonomy to the division’s leaders; and the unwillingness of leadership to evaluate the sales model, given its longtime success for the company.

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