Case Analysis: The Skeleton in the Corporate Closet
While gathering information for GPC Incorporated’s 75th anniversary book, a hired writer, Donna Cooper, and corporate archivist, David Fisher, discover that the company’s founder, Hudson Parker (Hud), had a secret compartment in his desk, which contained a document that may prove that he did not invent the plastic formula on which the company was founded. The document indicates that Hud may have stolen the formula from his close friend, Karl Gintz, which, if true, would make Hud a thief rather than a hero. After this unwanted discovery, David presented the document to his boss, who then gave it to GPC’s CEO, Hudson Parker III, known as Hap.
Hud and Karl were both chemistry students at Princeton. They became close friends and enlisted together when World War I broke out in Europe. Unfortunately, Karl was killed in France when his plane crashed. Apparently, shortly after Karl’s death, Hud mailed a letter to his girlfriend that included Karl’s hand written plastic formula. That formula was the basis for GPC’s Parkelite product, which was a miraculous new formula for plastic which introduced an enormous technological advance in synthetic polymers when it was released. In 1938, Karl Gintz’s father filed and lost a lawsuit against GPC claiming that Karl had been the sole inventor of Parkelite.
Hap must decide how to deal with the unwanted piece of information in a way that will serve the best interests of the stakeholders involved. If he decides to make the information public, he will need to evaluate when and how to release the information.
Analysis and Issues
The relationship between Hud and Karl was described as close. They enlisted and served in the armed forces together, which would serve to bond their friendship further. These factors make it seem highly unlikely that Hud would not give Karl his due credit. The character attributed to...
References: Bhide, A. and Stevenson, H.H. Harvard Business Review. Why Be Honest If Honesty Doesn’t Pay. Sep/Oct 1990, Vol. 68 Issue 5, p121-129.
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