What this case has to offer This case allows the students to apply the ethical theories of utilitarianism, deontology and virtue ethics to a real situation, although the names have been altered so not as to bias any discussion in class. On March 14, 2007 Chiquita Brands International entered into a plea agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. Chiquita agreed to pay a $25 million fine after it admitted that it made payments to a terrorist organization for protection of its operations in Columbia. Teaching suggestions I find that this case works well when each ethical theory is used separately to analyze the situation. I begin by asking the students to summarize the key utilitarian notions and then apply those concepts and principles to the case facts. After a thorough analysis, we then define deontology and apply it to the case facts. Finally, we do the same with virtue ethics. What the students find interesting is that they will often argue in favor of one position using one of the ethical theories and then argue for a diametrically opposed position when using a different ethical theory. This is a useful exercise for illustrating that ethical theories help in the analysis of problems, but that, because ethical theories approach problems differently, it makes sense that their recommendations will not always be the same.
Discussion of the ethical issues 1. Economics The only argument in favor of making the terrorist payments, other than saving company employees from harassment, is economic. CMI paid $1.7 million over an eight-year period from 1997 to 2004, or $212,500 per year on annual revenues of $4.5 billion. The payments are immaterial. Also, the amounts are analogous to the premiums on an insurance policy. By making the payments, the company is ensuring that its operations are not disrupted and its employees are not harmed. From an economic perspective, the payments are cost-effective, and a necessary business expense, regardless of whether they are...
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