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Lippe’s (2015) discusses in his article, “Volkswagen: Where were the lawyers?” about the corporate Volkswagen emission scandal. “The Volkswagen Group of America was found by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board to have installed “defeat devices” and emit more oxides of nitrogen than permitted under current EPA standards” (Wang, Jerrett, Sinsheimer, ; Zhu, 2016, p. 1). How could a scandal of this magnitude have occurred in such a well known, seemingly reputable, corporation? In order for a scandal like this to have occurred, it is clear that many people within Volkswagen must have not only ignored laws and regulations but also committed multiple ethical violations. Those involved in corporate ethical or legal violations generally are motivated to do so in order to further some type of agenda. The employees and management perceived that if they did not break the law or ignore ethics, the corporation is subject to lose a lot of money. Rogerson (2017) demonstrates that those within Volkswagen viewed their newly designed engine as the foundation for a new project on which Volkswagen’s management would market ‘clean diesel’ to the United States buyer. Volkswagen management highly valued this new diesel engine project. Unfortunately for Volkswagen, when those working on the diesel engine project discovered that they could not make their diesel engine meet the strict emission standards of the EPA, they determined that the best course of action was to cheat. Volkswagen proceeded to instal software that would cheat the EPA emission tests, therefore avoiding costly alterations to their diesel engine (p.17). Volkswagen’s management may have saved costs in the short run. However, that savings was short lived. Numbers 32:23b states that: “…be sure your sin will find you out” (English Standard Version). Volkswagen was found out, and once they were found out, Volkswagen paid dearly in the form of damaged reputation, decreased stock valuation, fines, and a plethora of lawsuits.
As an employee or a manager in either the legal office or the engineering department, there are many ways in which I would have attempted to prevent this incident from occurring.
In researching this scandal, it is apparent that there is a lack of communication and transparency within Volkswagen itself. “But what most litigation and enforcement actions reveal is that most companies are relatively less transparent to themselves—the bad actions are not obvious when occurring, only in hindsight” (Lippe, 2015, para. 6). Roberts (2016) shows that even the CEO of Volkswagen did not know that the emission scandal was going on within his company (p. 1). Information sharing and transparency within a company is key to not only preventing scandals but also key to a successful business. Volkswagen’s legal team either had knowledge of what was going on and did nothing about it or, more likely, the legal team was kept in the dark about the scandal. Volkswagen’s legal office needs to conduct an investigation into whether or not members of the legal office had knowledge of what was going on. If members of the legal office knew about the scandal and did nothing about it, those lawyers need to be fired. If the legal office was kept in the dark, an investigation into how and why the legal team was kept in the dark needs to be conducted. The legal office needs to have access to any and all information that would help them do their jobs effectively. If the legal office is informed, the legal office will help prevent another costly scandal from hurting Volkswagen. Management must implement policy and practices that will promote information sharing thus ensuring that decision makers from different departments are well informed.
In addition to information sharing and transparency, individual responsibility to an ethical standard is essential. As a manager of either the legal office or engineering department, I would implement ethical training in order to establish a corporate culture of ethical business practices. In order for Volkswagen to pull off a scandal of this magnitude, many people across different departments would have to be involved. Thus, a lot of people would have knowledge of the scandal and a lot of people would have to do nothing and say nothing about what was going on. Clearly, Volkswagen has an internal problem with employees and managers sweeping unethical and illegal behavior under the rug. If even one employee or manager spoke up about the misconduct, the scandal could have been stopped and Volkswagen could have avoided the costly consequences. Galatians 6:7 says: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (English Standard Version). Employees and managers of Volkswagen sowed a scandal and thus the corporation and many others were affected. Due to the scandal, Volkswagen reaped a reputation that was damaged, employees were fired, employees were imprisoned, customers were lied to, shareholders lost value in their investment, and the environment was impacted. Colossians 3:25 shows that: “For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality” (English Standard Version). Many lives were negatively impacted due to Volkswagen’s selfishness. Implementing ethical training would be hugely beneficial to Volkswagen to help prevent scandals like this from occurring in the future. As Proverbs 11:3 states: “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them” (English Standard Version). A corporation staffed with people of integrity will guide Volkswagen to success. Likewise, a corporation staffed with crooked employees will destroy Volkswagen. As mentioned earlier, the CEO claimed to not have known about the scandal until it became public. This shows that upper level management is out of touch with what is going on within Volkswagen. Therefore, the CEO is partly to blame for not encouraging and implementing a corporate culture of transparency and information sharing.
As the CEO of the diesel division of Volkswagen, when the scandal became public, I would have responded in a variety of ways. First, as the CEO, I would hold a press conference and make a public apology admitting the wrong doing and outlining the steps I would take to prevent any similar incidents from occurring in the future. After holding a press conference, I would hire an unbiased outside firm to conduct an investigation into what exactly allowed a scandal of this magnitude to occur. Any managers that encouraged unethical and illegal behavior would be fired. In addition to this, I would ensure that my employees are well informed about the Whistle Blower Protection Act. It is not beneficial to have a work environment where employees are scared of their management and are forced to conduct unethical or illegal business in order to keep their jobs. Employees should feel free to say something when they see something illegal or unethical going on. Senior level management must create a culture where the management supports employees and encouraged ethical behavior. Change in a corporation comes from the top and managers generally set the tone for the work environment and how business will be conducted. I would also hire an outside legal firm to conduct regular audits of Volkswagen to assist in detecting illegal and unethical behavior. If employees and management know that someone outside Volkswagen is watching and evaluating the legality of their actions, illegal and unethical practices will discovered before they rise to the level of a corporate scandal.
When it was discovered that Volkswagen had diesel engines that would not conform to the strict requirements of the EPA, Volkswagen had a decision to make. Admittedly, this decision is a difficult one to face. However, Volkswagen chose the easy way out of the situation and that easy way out was to cheat. Corporations like Volkswagen face difficult decisions almost every day. It may have been expensive to alter or fix the diesel engines to be EPA compliant. However, this expense would have likely come at a fraction of the cost of the embarrassment, fines, and legal costs that Volkswagen now faces. The decision to cheat should not even be considered an option when weighing what the appropriate course of action to take is.

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