GNC spiked and filler supplements (2016)
|One of the products under GNC's investigation|
|GNC HQ in Pittsburgh PA|
In the theory of individualism, it is stated that a company is only obligated to maximize its profits for owners and stakeholders. However, even though financial gains are the main objective and an individualist would achieve that by any means, it is also noted that an individualist must also remain within the law while maximizing profits. In this case, an individualist would say that this practice is not ethically permissible. It was GNC intent to maximize their profits on their products by making cuts and adding fillers and replacement ingredients to its products, however they didn’t label these changes and because of that they broke the second part of individualism and that is acting within the law. Even though they are not regulated by the FDA, like other food and drug companies, the fact that they did not label the fillers, stimulants, and decrease in the amount of other products means that they were at fault of false and misleading advertising. Since they knowingly didn’t label the new ingredients, their false advertisement posed a major health violation that the department of justice deemed their action as negligence, or failure to use reasonable care, resulting in damage or injury to another. Also, not only did they fail on the legal side of individualism, but they also lost the lawsuit and a $2 million settlement had to be paid. Any direct loss of money would be viewed by an individualist as stealing from the stakeholders in the company. To also add, because they were found to be at fault they also lost customers in the process, which would be a loss on potential future revenue. In the end, their intent to save money and maximize profit only lost them money directly as well as future sources of income. Overall, GNC acted in a way that individualists would claim to be an unethical action, due to the fact that they broke the law in the process, also, they failed to maximize profits by losing money in the lawsuit, as well as potential investments in the future.
Case examination through virtue theory focuses on the character of companies and how they reflect the companies’ values and standards. Virtue theory has four main focuses, which are courage, honesty, temperance, and justice. When looking at how GNC acted, it is easy to notice that they fall short on these characteristics and because of that a virtue theorists would say that they acted unethically. To start, GNC did not have the courage to make it known that they were adding ingredients and taking away others and come forward and tell their customers that the formula had changed, because of their fear of losing revenue because they would be producing a lesser quality product. Next, they were also obviously not honest about using fillers and stimulants in their product. Their dishonesty not only came from not mentioning the fillers, but also by stating that the nutrition facts were still the same and had the same benefits, when in reality it no longer was the case. Also, GNC showed a lack of moderation. Their lack of moderation showed when they decided to make financial savings at the customer’s expense, rather than finding methods within the company to do so, such as finding cheaper outsourcing companies or insourcing the ingredients all together. Finally, they disregarded justice by holding back information from their consumers. It was unjust of them to lie to the people that put the company where it is now and putting those same people’s health at risk all to save a few dollars per unit. After examining all of these characteristics and seeing how GNC lacks in each of them, it starts to paint a picture of what the company’s moral values are and what their real intent is. Since GNC failed across all aspects of virtue theory, it is clear to see that a virtue theorist would say that GNC’s actions were not ethically permissible based on this theory.
Maggie Fox, December 8, 2016.GNC agrees to pay $2 million fine and examine supplements it sells
Alison Young, October 23, 2015.Oregon AG accuses retailer GNC of selling drug-spiked dietary supplements
Gregory Wallace, February 4, 2015.Wal-mart, Target and others under fire for selling bogus supplements
February 3, 2015. Herbal supplements filled with fake ingredients, investigators find
David Kroll, February 9, 2015. Cease-And-Desist Orders Hit Walmart, Walgreens And Others For Herbal Supplement Sales
Anahad O’Connor, February 4, 2015.New York Attorney General Targets Supplements at Major Retailers
April 12, 2018, GNC (store)