Volume 3, Issue 1, January 1993
Michael Metzger, Dan R. Dalton, John W. Hill
The Organization of Ethics and the Ethics of Organizations
The United States Sentencing Commission’s guidelines for the sentencing of organizations found guilty of violating federal laws recently became effective. Dramatically increased penalties are possible under these gudelines, but so too is a substantial reduction in the penalties imposed on organizations that have an effective program in place to prevent and detect violations. This provides corporations with a tremendous new incentive in inaugurate organizational ethics audits both to avoid violations in the first instance and to reduce the penalty imposed in the event that a violation occurs. We argue, however, that there have always been very good reasons for organizations to conduct such audits, which emphasize the identification of the organizational factors that create incentives for unethical behavior. Corporate ethics programs initiated without reference to such factors cannot reasonably be expected to be effective in improving a company’s internal ethical environment.