This case describes an ethical dilemma faced by Amma Adobea. Amma works for APM, a micro-finance and small-business-finance organization. (Micro-finance organizations provide very small loans to people who want to start or expand small businesses. The amounts of these loans are often too small to interest banks, so an alternative source of credit is needed.
Amma attends an annual meeting of APM, where top managers got large â€œâ€giftsâ€ (a new car at her level of management), and even lower-level employees received incentives. Amma is concerned about these â€œincentivesâ€ because the organizationâ€™s profits have been declining in recent years, while the amount of money spent on executive rewards has gone up and up. The current CEO seems to be spending significant sums of money on activities that are not directly connected to the financial health of the organization.
1. What action do you think Amma is about to take? What options might she be considering?
Ammaâ€™s discomfort with the behavior of top management leads me to believe she is going to the press, or to some regulatory agency, to â€œblow the whistleâ€ on the unethical behavior by top management at APM. She may be planning to resign first, however; resigning before she is fired by top management will give her greater credibility. It is unlikely that she will do nothing at all, given her level of distress and concern for the organization and its stakeholders.
If she chooses to go to the press, she will be burning her bridges at APM and will likely lose her job. Depending on how influential top management at APM is across the alternative finance industry, she might be blackballed by the entire industry and not be able to find another job. She will need to have copies of documentation showing the excess spending, and taking that information out of the firm might lead to violations of laws that govern operations of such organizations. This is the highest-risk option that she can take.
If there is a regulatory agency that oversees her firm, she could go to this organization, but she is in a position where she is not describing stealing from the organization, just excessive spending by top management. Government and organizational corruption is common in Ghana, so the risk here is that the regulators may already be controlled by the CEO, Amponsah. She will need a great deal of information in order to decide whether to take this action. She will not want to take this action until she knows what the ethical climate is like at the regulatory agency.
Amma could also go to top management and express her concerns. She is unlikely to make much headway but this strategy is the least risky, in terms of threats to her job and livelihood. If there is a way to reach out to the investors at APM, that might be the best action to take, because they are the only group that may have the power to take action.
2. What are the implications of each option for :
c. The investors?
d. The community members who borrow from APM?
Any strategy that â€œblows the whistleâ€ on the situation at APM will be risky for Amma. Her negative interpretation of the events within APM, if given to the media or investors before approaching the CEO, will likely lead to her being fired. If no one shares her interpretation of events, then she will have burned her bridges without making anything better for the borrowers who use APM to better their lives. Amma needs to find someone who will take her seriously, because if the present trend continues, APM will go bankrupt, the investors will lose their money, and small business owners will lose a vital source of financing.
3. What practical action steps would you advise her to take considering the risks and returns involved in each scenario?
First, I would advise her to wait for a while â€“ a couple of weeks, at least â€“ to give herself time to build some bridges OUT of APM. She should put resumes out, contact any colleagues who might be able to advise her about job openings and how to handle this situation. She needs to provide herself with an avenue of exit before there is a backlash against her inside APM.
Second, I would advise her to amass as much specific information as possible before taking any action. If she can create a body of information regarding the financial trends in the company over the past 3- 5 years, that data will be persuasive and supportive of her message of concerns.
Third, I would suggest that she ask other staff members (behind the scenes, of course) to join her in expressing these concerns about financial stability at APM. She will gain more credibility if she is part of a team that is concerned about the condition of the organization.
Fourth, I would advise her to recognize that coming forward may lead to significant criticism in the press and in the industry. She needs to be willing to endure this criticism if she plans to take action and report on the poor financial management at APM.