Tuesday, February 25, 2014

American Apparel Knows Publicity; Whether It's Good Or Bad, Is It Good? Or Bad?

American Apparel Knows Publicity; Whether It's Good Or Bad, Is It Good? Or Bad? 

~Sean Harrington 2/19/2014

The American Apparel clothing company is a vertically integrated clothing company that not only manufactures their clothing but distributes, does retail, and even markets itself in the United States. From employing illegal immigrants to holding meetings in the nude, to even illegally using celebrity endorsements, clothing maker American Apparel has a long history of drawing attention to itself whether it be legal or not. Oddly enough this unprofessional, risky business makes up a decent portion of the clothing export sector out of the few American companies that still export, and can actually say "Made in the USA." The company is known to be a very outspoken company on grounds to promote labor policies that exclude the use of clothing manufactured in sweatshops. By doing this, American Apparel forces the public to focus on their good intentions, therefore the company can pretend they have an ethical stance with individualism. With American Apparel making the public believe that the company is moralistic and emphasizes good individualism, gave the marketing branch the belief that they were in the clear in the public eye. This made the company believe they could try out some risky tactics, whether they were legal, ethical, or even smart. 

As seen in the first picture, American Apparel even tried to draw publicity for the company with intentions to gain more overall sales through all the attention they got for the stunt. Yet with this advertisement American Apparel didn't even to seem to care that no matter what could come of this stunt slandering Woody Allen, by photo-shopping him onto Lauren Phoenix's(a porn star) magazine spread. One can assume American Apparel's highly paid marketing firm Adage, in charge of this stunt was considering utilitarianism to some extent, maybe even took the ethical theory of utilitarianism to the extreme. Since the firm knew they were going to get sued for illegal use of celebrity endorsement and other lawsuits that came with the stunt, the firm notified the company's stakeholders of stunt ahead of time. Therefore arguably, the company can be considered utilitarian, even big believer's of the theory since they notified their stakeholders, and weighed the benefits of the entire stunt to find that the bad publicity was actually in their best interest. Yet this can only be considered ethical in only a few aspects, yes it was financially beneficial for the company as a whole, but in the end still slandering Woody Allen in the ways they did, was undeniably unethical. With the additional revenue outweighing the repercussions with pulling this stunt the company learned to utilize this questionably unethical tactic even more and didn't show signs of stopping.
According to CEO Dov Charney, the vision for the brand is that of a “heritage brand. It's like liberty, property, pursuit of happiness for every man worldwide. That's my America." This quote by the company's CEO easily demonstrates a sense, and claims to strive toward a very similar philosophy to Kant's theories, yet do they actually back it up? Absolutely not; by just simply referring to the Woody Allen stunts the company pulled, easily demonstrates how the company breaks Kant's formula of humanity. One of the biggest points that the company failed to honor with regards to the formula, is that the formula stresses the respect for all that everyone should demonstrate universally. Obviously there wasn't any sign of respect directed towards Woody Allen, the stunt easily demonstrated the complete opposite. 

The ruling on the lawsuit that Woody Allen imposed on American Apparel, easily shows how American Apparel's decision makers don't truly follow much of the overall message that defines the Virtue theory, but in someways satisfies the four primary virtues, yet not always in an ethical manner. Adage does represent courage, which is one of the four primary virtues, but with the risk-taking they willingly made wasn't to take a stand for the right idea. The idea at hand is technically only right in the sense that it was the right action for the company in a financial aspect, but undoubtedly not right in any other aspect, especially in regards to what is ethical. The company attempts to show that they have honesty by claiming they are big believers in banning any type of sweatshop environments. They never beat around the bush, their temperance is relatively good, their expectations, whether they were truly reliable due to the risk, never seemed to be incorrect. Every intention and desire they attempted to satisfy inevitably worked out in the companies best interest, its not much of a surprise they won so many awards for having the best marketing in many varying ways. Technically the company's decision makers had certain characteristics that can be tied into having intentions of justice, such as producing quality products that are made exclusively in the US. One can also argue they had good ideas since they were so bold and successful, which also happens to demonstrate hard work too. It all draws a messy conclusion, even though most of the four primary virtues were satisfied, the overall point of the virtue theory isn't satisfied. The four primary virtues were generally satisfied in either an unethical practice, or only triggered to be dealt with because of specific events that happened to unwillingly force the companies action to save their own personal interest.


Palmeri, Christopher. "American Apparel Settles with Woody Allen." BloombergBusinessweek. Blo     omberg L.P., 18 May 2009. Web. 2014. <http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/conten     t/may2009/ db20090518_942184.htm>.

Neumeister, Larry. "Woody Allen's Sex Life SLAMMED By American Apparel." The Huffington Post      Inc. AOL HuffPost Entertainment, 16 Apr. 2009. Web. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com     /2009/04/15/woody-allens-sex-life-sla_n_187125.html>.

Zambita, Thomas. "Woody Allen vs. American Apparel: He sues over unauthorized ad; they say he     ruined own image first." NY Daily News. Daily News, 14 Apr. 2009. Web. 19 Feb. 2014. 
     <http://www.nydailynews.com/news/woody-allen-american-apparel-sues-unauthorized-ad-ruine     d-image-article-1.362489>.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Queens Foundry: Owner Forgery (2014)

Brian Ramnarine outside his 2014 trial
In the scandals examined by many below, the latent effects involved a decrease in revenue for the market at hand. Contrasting after effects, this scandal has been followed by a "bloom" in the Fine Art Industry (Mullin). In recent development, a Queens Empire Bronze Foundry Owner, Brian Ramnarine, was found guilty for forgery of a roughly $11,000,00 sculpture, what he claimed was a Jasper John piece (Janos). Passively enough, he plead no contest to the charge, but this occurred AFTER an initial plea of not guilty. A rather deviant approach to the scandal, his lawyer remarked that, "Mr. Ramnarine wanted to accept responsibility for what’d he done, so he approached the government and changed his mind" (Janos). In addition two accounts of fraud for inauthentic sculptures (Janos). The fine's include: "$15,000 to $150,000; order forfeitures of $34,250 and fraudulent artwork; and order restitution of $33,000 to an art gallery that purchased the fraudulent works of Mr. Indiana and Mr. Cemin" (Janos). If proven guilty he can be sentenced up to 80 years in prison (Janos). Shortly after this conviction, research was conducted that shows, "at least 40 counterfeit paintings were sold through what was considered one of New York's most prestigious, reputable galleries" (Mullin). A rather shocking statistic that is counter intuitive to what we would hope would be true about art galleries, their authenticity. The stake holders are the artists and the buyers of the fake art. Brian's deviance certainly puts him in the category of scandals that business ethics tends to analyze.

As a primary theory that relates to my argument, defining Individualism (or The Economic Theory) can help observers of this scandal better identify the issue at hand. The theory states that, "everyone has the right to pursue his[/her] own interests and should do so, but no one has a right to make other people’s choices about their pursuits for them" (Salazar Week 2). Seemingly fair enough, Individualism essentially deploys the 'Golden Rule' we all know and love. Brian certainly disobeys the economic theory because he intends to take money from people without giving them the 'right' to the real art they deserve to own based on their valid purchase. He also cheats the original artists, because with every fake sale, revenue towards John (Figure One) is lost. This act in general is rather distasteful, and the multitude of value at which it is occurring shows how scandalous Brian's actions really are.

Casting metal in a Queens foundry

Moving to another important theory, one finds themselves face to face with John Mill and the ideology of Utilitarianism which states that, "we ought to bring about happiness and pleasure in all beings capable of feeling it (and do so impartially)" (Salazar Week 3). Applying this to business theory means maximizing the happiness within the company as well as in the customers and subsidiaries on the outside of the business. The company in this case would be John, if it wasn't for the fraudulence of Brian. But in the case the Brian was a man of the public eye, he shouldn't want to cheat people out of their money and art, and maximize his own happiness by gaining huge profits like $11 million.

A third and defining theory that applies to the GSK bribery scandal is that of Kantianism (or Kant's Theory). The main principles of this theory include acting rationally, allowing others to react rationally, "respecting individual needs and differences", and being "motivated by Good Will" (Salazar Week 3). Fraudulence is by no means rational because it puts multiple parties at risk with big consequences. Others can't react simply because they think they are receiving the real product, or art in this case. In terms of needs and differences, many people paying for this art or having in shown in museums need the original painting for the sake of their own jobs, multiple needs must be met. Brian was most likely not motivated be Good Will, moreso a personal gain. A section of Kant Theory that is very popular as of current is The Formula of Humanity which states that we should "'act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means' (Kant, MM 429)" (Salazar Week 3). Brian focused on the money rather than the beauty and joy of displaying art publicly for the eye to see. His fraudulence disobeyed the formula of humanity by depriving many with the end, or the ability to view the original art.

Virtue Theory
Ramnarine's immitation of Jasper John's
iconic 1960 metal sculpture of a flag painting
A final theory I propose connects to the Foundry Owner Scandal is that of Virtue Theory. Virtues by definition are "the characteristics that allow things to function properly" and depend greatly on function and circumstance (Salazar Week 4). Specific to business, there are four main virtues, courage: "risk-taking and willingness to take a stand for the right ideas and actions", honesty: truthful interaction " in agreements, hiring and treatment of employees, customers and other companies", temperance: reasonable desires, and justice: "hard work, quality products, good ideas, fair practices" (Salazar Week 4). Biran took risks, but not ethical ones, gaining based on fraudulence is not a courageous virtue. Honesty is out the window the second money is cheated from John, if Brian had been honest, fraudulence wouldn't have occurred and we would not have a scandal to analyze. Brian doesn't show very good temperance seeing as an 11 million dollar pay off is a little criminally extreme. Beyond an unspeakable doubt, Brian fails to meet the ethical and moral standards that a person in power of his caliber should possess. 


Janos, Adam. "Queens Foundry Owner Pleads Guilty in Jasper Johns Forgery Trial."Metropolis RSS. Wall Street Journal, 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

Mullin, Sheppard. "United States: Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing: Despite Forgery Scandals, The Fine Art Market Is Booming." Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing: Despite Forgery Scandals, The Fine Art Market Is Booming. Mondaq, 2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

University of North Carolina: Academic Fraud (2014)

UNC Mascot and sports logo
The University of North Carolina (UNC) was founded in 1789 by William Richardson Davie. The university was one of the first public universities in the United States and the only one to graduate students in the eighteenth century. The University of North Carolina is currently undergoing an academic fraud scandal with the NCAA which is sparking racial recriminations. This has been brought to the light due to the fact that some student-athletes cannot read past an elementary school level. Carolina officials have admitted that in the mid-1990's the schools African American and Diaspora Studies hosted hundred of phony classes to generate fake grades that kept athletes eligible to play. Although the program has started a rebuilding process, since the former black studies chairman was forced to retire in 2012, it still does not erase the past years where students were encouraged to take pretend classes that did nothing to help them intellectually. The University's administration has put the blame on campus tutor Mary Willingham who has been publicly demonized and one UNC professor was indicted on fraud charges for being paid for a class he did not teach. UNC has resisted investigation to get to the bottom of it. Phillip Jackson, an executive director of Black Star Project wrote, "I find it appalling that the UNC would choose to issue a declaration of support to defend UNC even after the university admitted that it cheated young black men out of the best education possible... maybe they don't realize that their university students are not just competing among themselves in the big cities and small towns of North Carolina. Maybe they don't understand that being globally competent is a way 'bigger game' than football or basketball." Chancellor Carol Folt has told media and UNC trustees that, "we accept the fact that there was a failure in academic oversight for years." The chancellor now sees it was wrong and that it undermined their integrity and reputation.

Utilitarianism focuses on ones happiness and pleasure and how to maximize them for yourself and others.  Coaches were becoming happy because their student-athletes were still able to play even though they should not have been able to.  By enrolling their student-athletes in these fake classes everything was going well academically, so that they could focus more on the court or the football field.  Also the student-athletes themselves are happy as of right now because they can play the sports they love without having to worry about school work whatsoever.  Although in the future, if they do not get a professional job in their sport when they graduate, they will have a very hard and unhappy time finding a job with only a elementary school reading level.  Even if they did go play professionally it would still not be ideal for them to have such a low educational background because they would still need a good vocabulary for interviews and reading their write ups or statistics.

UNC Basketball team
Kantianism states that we are all members of humanity and should already have rational and moral values programmed into ourselves and should follow these values, keeping the Good Will in mind, saying that you should always do what is right.  It was neither rational or moral of UNC to create fake classes for student-athletes because by doing this they are keeping their students from the education they deserve and pay for.  The whole reason of being a student-athlete is to get a good education while playing the sport you love, with your academics being first.  Looking at the Formula of Humanity within Kantianism it says that you must treat yourself and other people as end and never as a means, as well as eliminating lying and deceitfulness of any kind just like the Formula of Universal Law.  By creating fake classes for students, UNC was not only lying to the students about their education but also to the NCAA allowing the student-athletes to play, which is unmoral.  Also UNC never had the rational consent of the players to enroll them into these classes.  They may have had their verbal consent, but the players did not think about or have to deal with the consequences of their actions at all.

Individualism, according to Friedman, says that their is only one goal of business, to profit, so the only obligation that the business personnel have is to the maximize profit for the owner or the stockholders.Going by what Friedman is saying about individualism, the University of North Carolina was doing everything right. People pay to come see their favorite team and players play. If the players are not able to play ticket sales goes down which means profit goes down as well. By UNC having phony classes, all players were able to play despite their grades.

Virtue Theory
NCAA logo

Virtue Theory is based off of four main characteristics: courage, honesty, temperance and justice. The first characteristic is courage which means taking risks and the willingness to take a stand for the right actions and ideas. UNC did take a risk of trying to get all players to play despite their grades. However, this was not the right action or idea. Student-athletes need to learn to be students first and athletes second. Honesty is the agreement to be truthful with ones employees, customers and other companies. UNC was not truthful when it came to their athletes grades. They did not stick to their NCAA rule book which states that student-athletes have to maintain a certain grade point average in order to play in NCAA games. This is the same for all teams within the NCAA. Temperance is the ability to set reasonable expectations and desires.  By enrolling student-athletes in fake classes UNC did not set reasonable expectations because they needed to resort to relying on these fake classes in order to keep the players GPA's up.  Justice includes hard work, good ideas, and fair practices.  UNC did not follow this because their players were not working hard and following the rules, while other schools were.  The players that did not have the right GPA's still competed against the ones that actually worked to get their GPA's.

UNC was deemed unethical on three of the four ethical theories.  The one exemption being Individualism only because they were following the theory of maximizing their profit. The other three theories were not followed because they created a fake happiness for their student-athletes, they did not keep the Good Will in mind and create the classes for all the wrong reasons, and they did not have the four characteristics of the virtue theory.


Barrett, Paul M. "UNC Academic Fraud Scandal Sparks Racial Recriminations." Bloomberg Business Week. Bloomberg, 04 Feb. 2014. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.

Ganim, Sara. "UNC: We Failed Students 'for Years'" CNN. Cable News Network, 29 Jan. 2014. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.

Salazar, Heather. "Kantian Business Ethics." 20 Feb. 2014.

Friday, February 21, 2014

5-Hour Energy: Ongoing Lawsuit (2004-Present)

Original flavor 5-hour Energy bottle
5-Hour Energy is the world’s largest energy shot company. Since their establishment in 2004, they have been dominating the competition with a 90% market share while selling around 470 million bottles each year. Five hour energy is manufactured by Manoj Bhargava’s company Living Essentials. Since his start in the business world, Bhargava has faced over 90 law suits, many of them concerning his most recent venture in the energy shot market. The company targets middle aged individuals who need a quick boost of energy without the hassle of making coffee or drinking an entire 16 ounces a standard energy drink such as Red Bull. Their slogan is that  people can get the energy they need without the “crash” later that previously mentioned alternatives are known to bring. As it turns out, there may be a more serious crash longer down the road.

In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) confirmed that they have received thirteen reports of deaths potentially linked to the high-energy drink over the span of four years. Since 2009, there have also been 92 filings against the company including 33 hospitalizations that were considered life threatening. Some of the more serious injuries included heart attacks, convulsions, brain hemorrhages, and one case of spontaneous abortion. Reports dating back to 2005 include less severe symptoms of dizziness, anxiety, nausea, and seizures. The company is still under investigation from the FDA and if the administration feels obliged, they can pull the item off the market if it is deemed unsafe for use according to the instructions detailed on the labeling. This is not the first time energy drinks have been under scrutiny from the FDA. There are reports dating back to 2004 that the organization investigated five deaths and one heart attack pertaining to Monster Energy drinks. So what is in these drinks that potentially causes such fatal side effects? 

The first ingredient that has to be examined is caffeine. This drug can be very addictive and have serious side effects if not consumed in proper amounts. Most health nutritionists agree that 500mg is a sufficient amount for individuals to see the benefits of the substance and not the unwanted side effects which include insomnia, irritability, increased heartbeat, tremors, and vomiting. Companies that sell soft drinks such as Coca Cola or Mountain Dew are required under FDA laws to put the amount of caffeine in each serving on their products. The discrepancy with energy drinks and one of the main reasons that so many law suits have emerged over these products is that they are regulated as a dietary supplement. There are much less restrictions in place on supplements of this nature and therefore Five Hour Energy is not required to report caffeine levels. There have been studies done that reveal the regular two ounce shot has about 215mg of caffeine while the extra strength has 242mg. The companies recommendation is that people take no more than two per day. If an individual follows this cycle, they have already consumed, depending on the product, either 430mg or 484mg out of the recommended 500mg. In comparison, the average energy drink or standard cup of coffee contains around 80mg of caffeine, more than two and a half times less than a concentrated shot of Five Hour Energy. Another ingredient under review is phenylamanine, an amino acid that cannot be broken down adequately by people with a genetic disorder called phenylketonuria. The disorder occurs in about 1 in 15,000 people in the United States and is as much as five times more likely to occur in other countries including Turkey and Scotland. Instead of breaking down the amino acid, the phenylamanine gets converted to a chemical that causes seizures and possible mental retardation in children and infants. In order to understand whether Five Hour Energy is an ethical company, it can be helpful to consider and apply four core ethical theories. These include the theory of individualism, utilitarianism, Kantianism, and lastly the virtue theory.
Health effects of caffeine diagram

Milton Friedman’s theory of individualism states that the only goal of a business is to profit, so the only obligation that a business person has is to maximize profit for the owner or the stockholders. Under this theory, Five Hour Energy as of late would be considered unethical. Because of the class action lawsuit they are facing and the surrounding controversy, sales have been falling drastically. The CEO, Manoj Bhargava, has fallen off of Forbes wealthiest 400 Americans with his net worth decreasing from $1.5 billion to $800 million. The company is now looked at negatively through the public eye which is hard to recover from unless drastic measures are taken. Unless Five Hour Energy decides to disclose all of their ingredients, it is likely that they will continue to lose money for their owner.  

John Stuart Mills, a main contributor of the utilitarianism theory, believes that happiness and pleasure are the only things of intrinsic value and that people ought to bring about happiness and pleasure in all beings capable of feeling it. With utilitarianism, it can be useful to identify the costs and benefits of each main stakeholder within the ethical issue. The most important stakeholder in this situation in the consumer. The benefit that a consumer can gain from a Five Hour Energy is the feeling of focus and increased energy whether they be at work, school, or engaging in a sporting event. The shot of energy can get people through the day while not feeling groggy afterwards and is slightly less expensive than coffee or a traditional energy drink. The costs of consuming the drink are all of the aforementioned health problems that may come along with it and the bad taste many people associate with the product. Although some people are still choosing to buy Five Hour Energy, in order to maximize happiness, consumers should stay away. There are plenty of alternative choices to this brand that do not have such questionable effects on health and that are better tasting. Consumers should also make the public more aware of the possible side effects of the energy shot because it will help in contributing to others overall happiness in life. The next important stakeholder is the CEO of the company. As mentioned earlier, Bhargava has experienced a drastic decrease in net worth since the investigation of his company began. He is still benefiting from Five Hour Hour in the profits that are being made, regardless if they are down from previous years. That is it though, the developing issue facing the company has cast a poor public image upon him and the future of the company looks grim. The pressure that comes with a class action law suit can also be daunting to anybody. In order for Bhargava to achieve pleasure in life and inspire happiness in others, he should come clean and reveal the nutrition facts in their entirety or change the ingredients to meet healthier standards.  Both of these options would benefit consumers because they would be able to weigh the pros and cons of the drink compared to alternatives and it would benefit Bhargava because he would no longer have to deal with the law suit and would feel more socially responsible, perhaps contributing to a higher state of happiness. The third and final stakeholder in this dilemma are the employees at Five Hour Energy. Similar to the owner, the salaries that the employees receive are the only benefit. The biggest downside is the loss of jobs likely to occur throughout the company. With profits steadily decreasing, it is quite possible that people will be laid off. The feeling of guilt that employees may experience if they know the products they’re selling and manufacturing are unhealthy could also negatively influence a person’s well being. In order to maximize the happiness of themselves and the consumers effected by the product, employees should work to make the energy shots as healthy as possible. After examining each stakeholder, it is clear that actions have to be taken both inside and outside the organization. Consumers have to become aware of the potential health problems while the employees and CEO have to strive to make a better product in order to instill happiness in themselves and their customers.

5-hour Energy CEO, Manoj Bhargava
Kantianism, developed by Immanuel Kant, encourages people to act rationally and to not act inconsistently with their actions while also helping others make rational choices and respecting an individuals needs and differences. Kant also believes that motivation should come from good will, or seeking what is right because it is right. As of right now, Five Hour Energy would not be looked at as an ethical company from a Kantian point of view. One reason relates to Kant’s formula of humanity as well as his formula of universal law. The formula of humanity states that people should act in a way in which they treat others as an end and never simply as a means while the formula of universal law encourages people to identify how their action will influence “everybody” and naturally this forbids all forms of deceit. Even though Five Hour Energy is not required to provide the public their full nutritional facts, people that follow Kantianism would realize that it is unethical. Consumers are not able able to make rational decisions because they are not given all of the information needed to make their choice which is considered wrong under the formula of humanity. The company also violates the formula of universal law in that they claim their drinks only have as much caffeine as a standard cup of coffee while tests have shown that they could have more than two and a half times that amount. They are lying to their customers which is not permissible under this law. Five Hour Energy also is not following the basic principles of Kantianism. In order to aid others in making rational choices, they will need to make the public aware of what exactly they put into each drink. If this information is available, the company could be considered more ethically correct under this theory. Consumers would then be able to make their own rational choice. It is important, however, that Five Hour Energy release their ingredients for the right reasons. If they do it to simply get out of a lawsuit then they would still be acting unethically under Kant. In order to be in accordance with all Kantian laws and principles, they would need to reveal these facts to the public simply because it is the right thing to do.

Virtue Theory
Lastly, the virtue theory asserts that businesses have certain virtues, or characteristics, that make them ethical. These include courage, honesty, trust, and justice. It is clear that Five Hour Energy has not been courageous regarding their current law suit. They were asked for a report detailing whether the company’s claims that the drink gave a person no crash afterwards and that they are suitable for child 12 and older were fully true. According to the attorney that filed the petitions, they received data in which the company left out important bits of information. If Five Hour Energy were a courageous company, they would release all of the necessary information in order to have a fair trial. Winning through deceit is in no way courageous and violates the virtue theory. The failure of Five Hour Energy to be honest has been mentioned numerous times already and because of their continual deceit of customers, they cannot be considered an honest company. A lack of honesty immediately leads to lack of trust. There is a reason that sales have decreased drastically; consumers have lost trust in the product. The law suit has yet to be solved but either way at this point, it will be difficult to gain customer’s trust back. Justice emphasizes hard work, quality products, good ideas, and fair practices. It can argued that Five Hour Energy does work hard and the general idea of the business is not all that bad. While the quality of the product is currently under review, it can be said that the company does not demonstrate fair practices. It is only fair that all of the nutritional information be available to those that desire it. 

After looking at four central theories of ethics, it is evident that Five Hour Energy cannot be considered a company that demonstrates the core principles of each theory. There sales have been decreasing and as a result have not been maximizing profitability for their owner. They also do not allow themselves or their customers to live up to their full potential happiness. Lastly, Five Hour Energy continually disrespects consumers thus not allowing them to make rational decisions while displaying unfavorable characteristics that contradict what a virtuous and ethical company should.


Castillo, B. (2012, November 14). The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/15/business/5-hour-energy-is-cited-in-13-death-reports.html

Haiken, M. (2012, November 15). Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/melaniehaiken/2012/11/15/can-energy-drinks-kill-reprise-new-fda-investigation-this-time-names-5-hour-energy/

Hudson, W. (2012, November 16). CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/15/health/energy-drinks-fda-investigates/

Lupkin, S. (2014, January 3). ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2014/01/03/5-hour-energy-refused-to-supply-full-documents-in-lawsuit/
Meier, B. (2012, November 14). The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/15/business/5-hour-energy-is-cited-in-13-death-reports.html

Waxman, W. (2012, November 16). CNN. Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com/2012/11/15/5-hour-energy-cited-in-13-deaths-and-spontaneous-abortion/

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mike Rice: Coaching or Abusing? (2013)

Mike Rice, former Rutgers basketball coach
What is the job of a coach? According to Prospects.ac.uk, the UK's official graduate careers website, "Coaches help people participating in sports to work towards achieving their full potential". Basically, a coach is supposed to try his best to bring out his athlete's best. Of course, there are different ways and styles of coaching. Phil Jackson's coaching style was very laid back. He demanded a lot from his players but never seemed to get angry or yell. On the other hand, Bob Knight's coaching style was very intense. He was always yelling at players or officials if they did something wrong. Both coaches were highly successful in their careers, so it's hard to tell which is a better coaching style. How does a coach know which style to lose? Or better yet, how can a coach know how mellow or intense he should be to bring out the best in his players?

That was a problem for former Rutgers head basketball coach, Mike Rice. He was unable to tell when he was crossing the line and being too intense or hard on his players. He couldn't distinguish the difference between coaching and abuse.
On April 3, 2013, Mike Rice was fired from his position as head basketball coach because of abusive videos that were released. Rice was shown in the videos shoving, kicking, throwing basketballs, and using gay slurs towards his players during practice. He was clearly very intense and thought that this would help his players reach their full potential. His actions affected a lot of people such as the players and their families, fans, school officials, and Rice himself. People can say the Rice's actions were completely wrong no matter what, but I am going to analyze his actions using four different ethical theories.

Rutgers Univ. Scarlet Knights Athletics logo

The Individualistic theory stresses the happiness of ones self. You have to be happy in order to make someone else happy. It is the most basic of the four theories. If the action that you do is within the law and makes you happy then that action is in accordance with this theory. In the case of Mike Rice, the abuse of his players would've been okay if it wasn't against the law and it made him happy. However physically and verbally attacking his players is illegal. Individualism also involves maximizing profit. Rice was fined $75,000 and lost his job so he did not maximize his profits. Mike Rice's actions go against the theory of Individualism. 

Utilitarianism believes in maximizing happiness and reducing suffering. Maximizing happiness means that the course of action should be the one that makes the most people happy. Mike Rice treated his players the way he did because he thought that it would bring out the best in his athletes and ultimately make them win games. Winning games would make all of the fans and major stakeholders happy, even the players that were being abused. That would maximize happiness. However, the basketball team under Mike Rice was 44-51. Winning less than half of their games means that Mike Rice was unable to maximize happiness. He did the opposite and maximized suffering. The players were mentally and physically hurt. They were constantly afraid of losing their scholarships if they spoke out. Their parents were angry and upset that the abuse occurred and went on for as long as it did. The university was embarrassed that something like that happened under their supervision. Rice's actions are not in accordance with Utilitarianism.
Rice showing aggressive behavior to a teammate

Kantian theory states that decisions should be made based on what's right, not on quantitative reasons such as maximization. There should be some type of good will behind every decision. People should be respected and informed so they can make rational decisions. None of the players were informed that they would possibly be pushed, kicked, have objects thrown at them, or called terrible things; therefore they could not make a rational decision. If Rice informed the players before hand and truly thought that his actions were for the better of his players, then Kantians would agree with his actions. Unfortunately, that was not the case and Rice did not treat his players with respect. 

Virtue Theory
Virtue Theory consists of four different elements. These elements are courage, honesty, temperance, and justice. Under the Virtue Theory, courage is to stand up for what is right. Honesty is to be truthful no matter what to all of the stakeholders. Temperance is to have realistic expectations. Justice is to be fair to all stakeholders. Mike Rice did not display any of these elements in his actions. He did have have the courage to stop his behavior after the first time he abused a player. He was not honest with his players or their parents when he was recruiting them. He did not have temperance and lashed out whenever a player did something wrong no matter how small. Lastly, he was not just with his players because of his abuse. 




Barclays Cheating The Libor System To Keep Company Alive (2012)

Barclays, a British multinational bank and financial service company located in London founded in 1690 is a universal bank with operations in retail, wholesale and investment banking, as well as wealth management, mortgage lending and credit cards. Though Barclays was found to have cheated the Libor system in 2005 the scandal is still going on today.  The Libor system, standing for London Inter-bank Offered Rate, makes interest rates for individual investors, companies and banks that lend and borrow money. It also defines rates that affect services such as mortgages, credit cards, and student loans.  The Libor system deals with trillions of dollars and with the smallest change of rates or anything in the system things could change drastically. "Barclays Senior Management told staff to lie, saying that they could borrow at lower interest rates than they could, in order to show the bank in a better light than it actually was" trying to make a bigger profit and a better bottom line for the bank(LBC). The three former Barclays employees who are being charged for the manipulation  of the interest rates are Peter Charles Johnson, Jonathan James Mathew and Stylianos Contouglas.  These men are accused of conspiracy and are going to appear in London's Westminster Magistrates' Court with their sentenced still to be determined. Barclays, is trying to settle these allegations by paying the US and UK about £270 million or $450 million.  Along with these three conspirators Barclays' CEO, Robert Diamond, also stepped down because of this scandal.  Also even though this is an overseas bank and interest rate system, some companies here in the U.S. were involved, such as Bank of America, Citibank, and JP Morgan.

Utilitarianism focuses on ones happiness and pleasure and how to maximize them for yourself and others. In Barclays case Peter Johnson and Jonathan Mathew, former rate submitters at Barclays, and Stylianos Contogoulas, a former trader, were trying to make Barclays bank a happier place by taking millions away from the Libor, making the bank's bottom line better. There is nothing wrong  with making your company more profitable, which would most likely lead to a happier bank and happier customers, but changing your rates because you saw a flaw in the system is not the way to go about it.  Especially if you were tricking your customers into thinking they were getting good interest rates on their mortgages and other loans.  How they tricked their customers was by using a banking term called a "hedge," which is telling the customers that rates are going to fall making them choose a higher percentage on the loan. With the unneeded percentage added Barcalys makes a higher profit, feeling happy, and the customers left not feeling happy paying the larger percentage.  

Kantianism states that we are all members of humanity and should already have rational and moral values programmed into ourselves and should follow these values, keeping the Good Will in mind, saying that you should always do what is right. Barclays broke the first basic principle of Kantianism, that you cannot consider yourself exempt from rules.  Though they clearly thought it was a good idea to cheat the Libor system by changing rates and having average bankers pay for more their loans and mortgages just so Barclays, as a bank, could look better.  Also if you look at the Formula of Humanity within Kantianism you must treat yourself and other people as end and never as a means.   Meaning that you may not use other people to get somewhere and leave them with no positive end reward at all, which is also what  Barclays did.  They "bullied, cajoled or suggested their customers into hedging the cost of either their foreign exchange or the cost of their interest rates in borrowing money to do a business transaction" so that Barclays Bank would not collapse and would stay successful (Sky News).  

Individualism, according to Freedman, says that their is only one goal of business, to profit, so the only obligation that the business personnel have is to the maximize profit for the owner or the stockholders.  Going by what Freedman is saying about Individualism Barclays was doing everything right. By focusing on their goal of creating bigger profits and trading at an advantage over their competitors Peter Charles Johnson, Jonathan James Mathew and Stylianos Contouglas did this to a tee. By cheating the Libor system it made Barclays and the three conspirators egos higher, which is one of the man parts of Individualism.  For them to be selfish by cheating  the system and there customers is something an Individualist might just be proud of. 

Virtue Theory is based off of four main characteristics courage, honesty, temperance and justice. The first characteristic is courage which means taking risks and the willingness to make a stand for the right actions and ideas. Barclays did have a type of courage, taking the risk of trying to cheat the Libor system that is worth trillions of dollars in loans, mortgages, and student loans.  Although they were not doing this action for the right reason. Honesty is the agreement to be truthful with ones employees, customers and other companies. Barclays was no where close to being honest with its customers, because they lied about the interest rates and their senior management was not honest with their employees because they were told to lie about how the company could better interest rates only to make Barclays as a whole look better. Temperance is the ability to set reasonable expectations and desires. Barclays did not have reasonable expectations because they believed that without cheating the Libor system their company was going to collapse and no longer be a leading competitor as a bank.  Justice includes hard work, good ideas, and fair practices.  Going by this definition Barclays had no justice what so ever, at least not good justice.  They may have worked hard to figure out how to get into the Libor system and change rates around, but so did other banks worldwide and they were not working hard for the right reason.  It was not a good idea because they were obviously going to get caught eventually, and have to pay a huge some of money because they did something unethical.  Lastly Barclays could not have done this in fair practice because they were untruthful to their customers and employees, as well as to all of London.  Therefore, since Barclays did not have any of the four characteristics of  the virtue theory they are seen, due to this scandal, as an unethical company.

Barclays was deemed unethical on three out of the four ethical theories. The one exemption being Individualism only because they were following the theory of maximizing their profit. The other three theories were not followed because they made the employees and customers unhappy, they were inhuman and did not keep the Good Will in mind, and they did not have the four characteristics of the virtue theory.


Bray, Chad. "3 Who Worked at Barclays Face Charges in Libor Case." DealBook 3 Who Worked at Barclays Face Charges in Libor Case Comments. N.p., 17 Feb. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

"Ex-Barclays Staff Charged Over Libor Scandal." Sky News. N.p., 17 Feb. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

Salazar, Heather. "Kantian Business Ethics." 20 Feb. 2014.

"What Is The Barclays Libor Rigging Scandal." LBC. N.p., 31 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

NBA: Referee Betting on Games (2007)

NBA logo
During the years of 2005 through 2007 Tim Donaghy former NBA ref was accused of betting on multiple NBA games  that he was refereeing during the 2006 and 2007 season. Donaghy who worked as a referee in the NBA for 13 seasons from 1994-200. He officiated 772 regular season games and 20 playoffs games. On the bets that he made he had a winning percentage between 70 to 80 percent. Before he would bet on a game he would use his background knowledge by talking to referees that are refereeing that game and ask them how they were feeling about a certain player whether or not they will give that player some calls. For example Allen Iverson got into an argument with a ref about a certain call. The NBA fined him 25,000 dollars and the referees union though he should have been suspended a few. The next day Donaghy was refereeing a Iverson and also place a bet against Iverson's team because he knew so of the referees wanted payback and they missed a few calls and Iverson's team loss. When the home team was favored by 0-4½ points, it went 5-12 in games officiated by Donaghy this season, according to Covers.com, a Web site that tracks referee trends. Home underdogs were 1-7 when the spread was 5-9.5 points. Donaghy had gambling problem and could not stop. He said it start betting his friends and golf and cards and then started to move on to sports games. He thought his NBA would be his best bet because he has been working in the NBA for so long that he knows the ins and outs and he is refereeing the games too.

Former NBA referee, Tim Donaghy

The definition of Utilitarianism is to have happiness or pleasure are the only things of intrinsic value. We ought to bring about happiness and pleasure in all beings capable of feeling it. The happiness for Tim Donaghy was refereeing basketball games, but soon as he started to gambling that happiness changed. Tim Donaghy was a normal average Joe was a NBA ref who made about 300,000 thousand dollars a year he was happily married and had four kids. After his happiness was referee the game he loved it changed to winning tons of money. Betting on games that you ref brought him joy because he knew that he was going to win those games because he could control them. In utilitarianism the main reason why everyone wants to be happy is if happiness is valuable, there is no difference morally-speaking  between my happiness and your happiness. Donaghy's selfish happiness made millions of people unhappy with what he did. Fans, players coaches, owners, even the commissioner David Stern was not happy. It  only made Donaghy happy because he was making money and providing for his family." As a competitor, as hard as I play, it is disappointing, definitely," Lebron James  said.

Pistons guard Chauncey Billups said he was surprised to learn of Donaghy's situation. "I think everybody had  the same kind of reaction whether you played in the league or just a regular citizen," Billups said. These players felt like they were cheated in some of the games that they played in because of what Donaghy did during the 2006 and 2007 seasons. This scandal does not follow what Utilitarianism stands for because you need to first make yourself  have happiness and second others around you which Donaghy does not do. He let down his family his friends, players in the NBA, the other referees in the league, owners and especially who love the game of basketball just like Donaghy once did.

Referee Tim Donaghy during an NBA game

Kantianism Immanuel Kent was born in 1724 and came up with the theory what we call Kantianism. Kant came up with four principles when coming up with Kantianism. The first one is Act rationally, meaning do not act inconsistently in your own actions or consider yourself exempt from rules. The second principle is allow and help people to make a rational decisions. The third principle is respect people, their autonomy, and the individual needs and differences. The fourth and final principle is Be motivated by good will, seeking to do what is right because it is right. Based on the information of this scandal of Tim Donaghy, Donaghy did not follow any of the principles of Kantianism because he did not act rationally by betting on games that he was betting on because it is immorally wrong to bet a sporting event that can control to help you win the game. Also  Donaghy was not motivated by good willing and was not seeking to do what is right because it is right. He cheated in order to get what he wanted and this acted affected outcome of teams records and their chances to make the playoffs. The definition of a maxim is a will do action in order to achieve a purpose. Kant has three shopkeeper maxims which are I will be honest with my customers in order to gain their trust and get repeat business, I will be honest with my customers because I like them, and I will be honest with my customers because that is the right thing to do. In my example of the referee scandal you could look at the fans as the customers and Tim Donaghy was not honest with his customers in any of the three ways Kant's talks about. The only one that you could  think he followed was the first one because fans kept on coming to the games because they trusted he knowledge as an NBA ref and be a good and fair ref.

Another referee moment with Jim Donaghy
Individualism Milton Friedman Economist came up with the theory of Individualism. he though that the goal of business is to profit, so the only obligation that the business person had to maximize their profit for the owner or the stockholders. The NBA has many stakeholders and makes tons of money. I think helped and hurt the NBA's profit because during his time refereeing Donaghy made crazy calls that could change the outcome of the game or even miss obvious foul calls. Fans would watch the game or go to the games they would want to see what crazy call or no call Donaghy would do. For example one time Donaghy ejected head coach of the San Antonio Spurs Greg Popovich during a game and then went a head to eject the assistant coach of the Spurs in the next couple of possessions. People like seeing crazy things like this during basketball games. He also hurt the NBA's profits because people were shocked about the NBA did not  know about this right away and then people started to think the NBA was fixed kind of the way WWE wrestling is this made people less interested during the year but Stern brought the NBA back and better then ever after this scandal.

Virtue TheoryVirtue Theory The characteristics that allow things to function properly are called good making features or virtues. They depend on two things one is the thing's function and the other is the thing's circumstances. There are four main virtues of character. The first one is Courage. Courage is risk taking and willingness to take a stand for the right ideas and actions. Donaghy took the courage to try something that is illegal for someone to do and he was pretty good at it until he was caught by the FBI in 2007. He took a risk at something that he knew was against law and it backed fired because he went to jail and was banned by the NBA to referee ever again. The next virtue is Honesty. Honesty is in agreements, hiring and treatment of employees, customers and others companies. Donaghy was not honest he cheated the NBA as a whole he hurt the name of the NBA for sometime and cheated to get where he was in wealth. The next virtue is Temperance. Temperance means having reasonable expectations and desire. Donaghy did not have expectations and desires because he did what ever it took to wining as many NBA games as he could be fixing the games. Donaghy had a winning percentage between 70-80 percent which is very high when betting on games. He is looked as criminal by the way he acted and its unfair to others that bet and do well because it will cause people to get curious on their success. The final virtue is Justice. Justice is hard work, quality products, good ideas, fair practices. Donaghy hard work to becoming an NBA ref is all washed away on things that he did during the 2006- 2007 season. The quality for the NBA at this time was considered fake because of Donaghy fixing the games. These were not fair practices that Donaghy conducted.

Looking at the scandal of Tim Donaghy in 2007 shows us how an everyday normal person can cheat a professional sport organization and win a lot of money be refereeing games and fixing calls by using all four the main types in class Kantianism, Utilitarianism, Individualism, and virtue theory all relate to this scandal. I think that Justice was severed in catching Tim Donaghy and he deserves to be in jail. 


"Donaghy under Investigation for Betting on NBA games." ESPN.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

"Chicago Sports Guru." Tim Donaghy Details How NBA Officials, League Allegedly Fix Games (Exclusive Interview Part 3). N.p., June 2007. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

Beck, Howard, and Michael S. Schmidt. "Former N.B.A. Referee Pleads Guilty." The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Aug. 2007. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

Strauss, Robert. "Sympathy for Donaghy at School Reunion." The New York Times. The New York Times, 28 July 2007. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

Target: Costly Security Breach (2013)

Target Corp. logo
Target was hit hard during the 2013 holiday season. Their system was breached and allowed hackers access to nearly seventy million peoples credit and debit card information. This security breach is one of the largest ever seen. They targeted the magnetic strip on the back of the cards as they were swiped during purchases at Target, allowing them to store a huge database of peoples personal information. Obtained from the cards alone was the person's name, card number, expiration date, and the CVV or security code on the back. They would be able to sell of this information to people via the underground market to make counterfeit functioning credit cards. Also after getting their hands on this personal information hackers could find their addresses and phone numbers as well putting people at an even greater risk of identity theft. These large American retail superstores have become the prime target for hackers. They are well behind the rest of the major countries in security retail purchases. How could this be possible? Arguably the most advanced and powerful country is falling behind technologically.
The truth of the matter is this huge retail industry is reluctant to change its credit card security and has had little incentive to do so. There seems to be too many too many negatives and obstacles to change over to the Chip and Pin payment systems. These more advanced and secure Chip and Pin systems have already been in operation over seas for some time now. How these newer cards work is they now have built in chip chip that is read by the machine rather than the previous magnetic strip. Along with this unique chip the cardholder must enter a pin just like one would do using a debit card. The extremely important factor these cards bring to the table beyond what was previous listed is that the information that would previously be visible is immediately encrypted leaving hackers and unfortunately for the retailers as well with no access to this information. This Chip and Pin method was efficient over in England decreasing their credit card fraud by thirty four percent. That is a pretty good incentive right there, is it not?
Target is one of America's most popular shopping places

The system currently in place not only by Target is cheap and quick. It keeps the lines moving fast, this convenience for stores came at the cost of poor security measures and lack of privacy for the consumers. The stores may seem foolish in this light but it is actually more beneficial to them. They are able to collect your personal information and with a few questions like, "may i have your zip code and email please?". Which customers are more than willing to fork over and the company is able to boost their marketing giving them up to sixty percent higher returns. It seems absurd for them dump this off in order to increase their security measures. The retail and bank industries claim they are both ready to make the big move over to chip and pin credit cards. If both these industries are more than willing to do so, then what is the wait for? Its all one huge game of cat and mouse. They are constantly waiting on one another to implement the system first. Being such a risky and expensive move, if they do not make the leap together someone is going to get hosed.
So ultimately this was bound to happen to one of the retail stores because they are all playing with fire. Target had drawn the short end of the straw so to speak. Where did they go wrong? Everyone else was doing it so why did this happen to them? Who Hacked Target? Targets computer security staff had brought to the attention of the cooperation that their were certain vulnerabilities in their current system. This was done at least two months earlier then the fallout that occurred. Their is evidence to suggest that one security analyst from the Minneapolis Target, which is the main headquarters, claimed that he urged further security review of the system. However this was simply looked over by the upper management. This all happened during the time Target was updating their payment terminals, was short staffed in their IT department and was coming up on the 2013 holiday season, the most profitable time of the year. The hackers were able to bypass Targets security through a HVAC contractor Fazio Mechanical Services access. This contracting services was connected through Targets system because of the maintenance they had been doing for them. They were linked in the networks for billings and contracts. Once the hacker had found an entry it is easy for him to move around undetected.
Target has issued several apologies and compensation for the consumers that were effected by the situation. Their stock had dropped more than one percent and their projected losses for the year is two and a half percent. Around fifty three lawsuits have been filed against the cooperation since the breach. Target is working diligently to make up for their mistake and is looking to take all recommended security measures. The main stakeholders are Target, their shareholders, and the customers that had their personal information stolen.

Analyzing this case with the four main ethical theories, Individualism, Utilitarianism, Kantianism and Virtue theory Target's actions will be seen as ethical or not. Based upon this particular situation Target acted unethically according to all the theory's.

Brian Cornell, CEO of Target Corp.

Individualism states that the main goal of a business is to maximize profit for the stakeholders. Approaching Target's case from an Individualist perspective Target was acting to maximize profit. However in doing so the actually lead to their own demise. They chose to keep the current credit card system because it was cheaper and more efficient, this helped boost their profits. Entering the 2013 holiday target was right on track to make an enormous amount of money. So at first Target was acting with in the ethical bounds of an individualist, however it did not turn out this way. Targets overall profits dropped over two percent after the security breach. This is not ideal their shareholders and all the costumers were left uneasy and lacking confidence in the company. Targets stocks dropped a whole one percent directly after the incident. So in the end Target did not act ethically because even tho maximizing their profits was the intention they failed to do so.

Utilitarianism main intent is to make everyone happy and wants to do so for the over all good. Target more than clearly would be found to be unethical in the eyes Utilitarianism theory. They accomplished the polar opposite of bringing happiness to everyone and acting in the interest of the overall good. Target had upwards of fifty three lawsuits filed against them and growing. There are millions of unhappy customers who had their information stolen and put at a great risk of identity theft. Target was not making everyone happy but rather just themselves. When doing so they put their cooperation a jeopardy and during such and important time of the year. Cyber criminals hit the jackpot recovering over 70 million different cards number and information. Target was unethical in their decisions but their actions post disaster were in the best interest of the over all good and to make everyone happy. However this was only the aftermath trying to make the best of a bad situation.

A brief timeline of how the hackers broke into Target's Network

Kantianism is based upon making rational decisions and allowing others to do the same for themselves. There is no lying or deceit of any kind and the use of people without their rational consent. Never treating the situation as mere means but rather always as an end. Target was not unaware that updating their terminals left them vulnerable. They simply chose to ignore the risks because the holiday season was upon us and the could not bear to slow down to check every little warning now. It was full steam ahead and they acted with the customers as mere means. Even though head intelligence analyst spoke out about the faults in the system and how it should be reviewed, they chose to brush it off the table. It was not worth their time for they had one goal in their sites and that was to make a killing during the 2013 holidays. This is unethical because they were willing to circumvent the rational consent of the customers using the faulty credit card machines. Target new they could be faulty but allowed the consumers to swipe the cards anyways without any warning. This is seen as impermissible by a Kant because the people need to be given the necessary knowledge to act on their own rational being. Their is no way Target could be seen as ethical from a Kant's perspective because their was a clear violation for their motive for maxim.

Virtue Theory
Virtue Theory focuses on four main characteristics, courage, honesty, self control and fairness. A business must act with the interest of these characteristics in mind. They must be willing to take a stand for the right ideas and actions. Honest in agreements, treatment of employees and with customers. Expectations and desires must be with in reason. Finally they must work hard, produce quality, have good ideas and fair in their practices. Target was not courageous in their actions they merely conformed with the nominal security system they new had its faults. They did act with in reason however because it was not unusual for a company to be using this system in the United States. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to consumers or cashiers because they were still using the same old equipment that they were used to. This was not fair to the costumers how ever and has never been fair. Target exploits the breach of private information themselves to make a much larger and more efficient marketing scheme. They are more than happy to disclose the personal information that comes up when a credit or debit card is swiped. A Virtue Theorist would see Target as unethical for this course of action and unfair.


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