The Skeleton in the Corporate Closet

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In “The Skeleton in the Corporate Closet,” some very significant and profound ethical dilemmas are presented, which cut directly to the core of the corporate culture of the organization involved – General Parkelite Company (GPC). I begin my evaluation with a brief overview of the case, and then proceed to identification of the central and peripheral issues involved, delineation of the facts and suppositions used in my analyses and as the basis of my recommendations, and finally I present my analyses and recommendations.

Case Synopsis

The case begins with David Fisher, the corporate archivist, and Donna Cooper, a writer contracted to write a 75th Anniversary book for GPC, exploring old documents and corporate nostalgia in the GPC archives room. The two of them came across documents that appeared to be love letters penned from the company’s founder, Hudson Parker, to his sweetheart, Mary Beatrice White, while Parker was on deployment overseas during World War I. The two of them happened upon a starling discovery contained in the love letters – a document which appeared to imply that the formula for the company’s namesake (Parkelite), had in fact been stolen by Hudson Parker from his best friend from college and fellow soldier.

After apparently considering the implications of this discover to himself, Mr. Fisher asked for a meeting with his superior, Jill Pierce, communications Vice President, where he informed her of the shocking discovery. After giving some thought to attempting to “bury” this news, Ms. Pierce delivers the document to GPC’s long-time CEO and grandson of the founder, Hudson Parker III (Hap). Hap is obviously and understandably shaken by the news and potential implications to his company’s and family’s reputation. He spends a weekend reflecting and considering his course of action, and has a meeting with GPC’s legal council, Newland Lowell on Monday to hear the legal perspective. The case concludes with a chance encounter between Hap and three managers, where they discussed GPC’s strong ethical culture in casual conversation.

Central and Peripheral Issues Involved

The central issue gleaned from the case is, should Hap reveal the information discovered in the archives that the invention behind the founding of the company, and a product upon which GPC had relied for the majority of its profits for two full decades, had in fact been stolen intellectual property. There are also several peripheral issues inferred from this case, but they all play a supporting role to the one central issue as identified above. Some of these peripheral issues include:

The role of an innovative product and an innovative business, marketing and distribution process as they relate to a patent (was the patent really worth anything if it couldn’t be brought to market?); Instilling a strong company culture of integrity through leading by example from the top-down; Building and maintaining a positive and superior company image for all stakeholders; Crisis management and public relations in an organization; An analysis of what would have the greatest negative impact to an organization – harming of reputation due to such damaging news, or the harming of organizational culture due to repressing such news.

Facts and Suppositions used as the Basis of Analyses and Recommendations

The following facts from the case were used to form the basis of my analyses and recommendations:

GPC is celebrating its 75th Anniversary. Jill Pierce has focused much of her recent marketing and communications campaign on this, and has prominently used Parker’s image along with the tagline, “He started it all;” Donna Cooper is external to the GPC organization, and was hired to write a book about the company for its 75th Anniversary; Parkelite was the product responsible for GPC’s founding in 1920 and subsequent success. Parker was the man responsible for said founding and success; Karl Gintz’s father filed suit...
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