Unocal in Burma

Topics: Human rights, Ethics, Morality Pages: 12 (4080 words) Published: October 13, 2007
1.Executive Summary
In this paper, I will examine the case study of Unocal using four key different perspectives of ethics. Unocal was an American oil and gas conglomerate that was subject to class action suits for alleged human rights violations in Myanmar. These suits were filed at both the US federal and California state courts. Throughout the paper, I will provide clear and concise definitions to key terms in the area of ethics as it pertains to the Unocal case study. These will be based on literature reviews of books and documentation in the field and study of ethics. I will also provide my viewpoint on the moral responsibilities of Unocal for the injuries inflicted on and suffered by the Karen people of Myanmar. Lastly, I will examine Unocal¡¦s view that ¡¥engagement¡¦ rather than ¡¥isolation¡¦ is the proper course in achieving social and political change in Myanmar.

2.Table of Contents
1.Executive Summary2
2.Table of Contents3
4.1.Justification of utilitarian, rights, justice, and caring perspective6 4.2.Responsibilities of Unocal12
4.3.Proper Course of Unocal15

Total word count: 3,640 excluding the Executive Summary and References

Ethics, derived from the Latin word ethica, meaning ¡¥moral philosophy¡¦ has been around since before the time of Aristotle, the famed Greek philosopher, who contributed major works on the subject including the Nicomachean Ethics. Wikipedia, the free online dictionary describes ethics as covering the analysis and employment of concepts such as right and wrong, good and evil, and responsibility. Ethics is a kind of investigation and includes both the activity of investigating and the results of that investigation - whereas morality is the subject matter that ethics investigates (Velasquez 2006, p.8). Simply put - ethics deals with understanding and differentiating right from wrong. Before examining the case in detail, I will first provide a brief background to the two key components in the case ¡V Unocal and the residing government of Myanmar. I will also touch briefly on the key points of the case study, which this paper is based on. Unocal was originally founded in 1890 as the Union Oil Company of California. In 1996, Unocal became the first company in the US to be sued in court using the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789, a law originally meant to prosecute pirates in international waters. In April 2005, Unocal agreed to a merger with Chevron Texaco (now known as Chevron) and the merger was completed in August 2005. Once considered the richest nation in South East Asia prior to its independence from the United Kingdom in 1948, Myanmar has since regressed to being one of the poorest countries in the world. Several western nations, most notably the United States have strict isolation policies in place banning among other things, US investments into the military run state due to widely publicised human rights violations and non democratic practices. The military seized and remains in power during an uprising in 1988 and formed the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), which was later renamed to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997. In 1992, Unocal entered into a contract along with Total SA, a French company who had earlier been awarded development rights for the Yadana fields, an area rich with natural gas deposits off the coast of Myanmar, PTT Exploration & Production Public Co (PTTEPPCo), a Thailand company responsible for purchasing the gas and the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) which represented the Myanmar government. Total SA would be responsible for the overall project as well as to develop and extract the gas; Unocal would be responsible for building the 256 mile pipe to Thailand for the oil to be sold via PTTEPPCo. Most of the pipe would be undersea with the exception of a 40 mile stretch that would run across the...

References: Rainbow C. ¡¥Descriptions of Ethical Theories and Principles¡¦ - Department of Biology, Davidson College, Davidson, NC 28035
Final Settlement Reached in Doe v. Unocal - Accessed 12th June. Available at
Hinman L.M, 1999 Contemporary Moral Issues, 2nd Edition Prentice-Hall
Olsen J.E. ¡¥Global Ethics and the Alien Tort Claims Act: A summary of three cases within the oil and gas industry¡¦, 2002, Management Decision, 2002 40/7 pp.720 -724
Justice and Fairness - Accessed 12th June 2007. Markula Center for Applied Ethics available at
Myanmar Times & Business Review - Accessed 12th June 2007. Available at
Schwartz P. ¡¥When good companies do bad things¡¦ 2000 Strategy & Leadership Volume 28 Number 3 pp. 4-11
Thawnghmung, A.M, Sarno P. 2006 ¡¥Myanmar Impasses: Alternatives to Isolation and Engagement¡¦, 2006 Asian Journal of Political Science, 14:1
Velasquez M.G.2006, Business Ethics - Concepts & Cases, 6th Edition, Pearson Education International.
Wikipedia Online Dictionary, Accessed 12th June 2007 Available at
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