Thursday, March 30, 2017

TransCanada Corporation: Keystone XL Pipeline (2015)

TransCanada's logo


TransCanada Corporation was founded in 1951 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The company deals with energy infrastructure based on natural gas and oil. The company operates 91,500 km of natural gas pipelines while owning 653 billion ft3 of natural gas storage facilities. TransCanada also operates 4,300 km of oil pipelines, which has already transported 1.4 billion barrels of oil, which is equivalent to 58.8 billion gallons. TransCanada also employes 7,178 people across the U.S. Canada and Mexico. TransCanada’s energy infrastructure supplies many energy requirements across North America. They supply 27% of natural gas used daily, they produce enough power (10,700 MW) to light more than 10 million homes, and transport about 20% of Western Canada’s oil production to refineries in the U.S. (8)Recently TransCanada has come under scrutiny with the 4th phase of the Keystone pipeline system, called the Keystone XL, the company is trying to build. TransCanada already operates 2,925 miles of crude oil pipeline that transports oil produced from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin to refineries in Texas and Illinois. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would add 1,179 miles and 830,000 barrels a day to their infrastructure, taking a more direct route to a terminal in Steele City, Nebraska. Environmentalists are protesting the pipeline as it would increase greenhouse gas emissions, produce more frequent oil spills, and many see the construction of the pipeline as a battle for America's energy future. Farmers are also protesting the pipeline where their land would be taken and forced to have the pipeline cross their farms. The Keystone XL pipeline expansion was originally proposed in 2008 and Canada's National Energy Board accepted the proposal in 2010. Since the pipeline extends across the Canadian-U.S. border, it also must be approved by the President of the United States. In 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency released a statement saying that the draft of the environmental impact study for the pipeline was inadequate and narrow. The full report was released in 2011 and revealed the pipeline would pose no real environmental threat if modern environmental protection and safety measures are followed. The report did say the pipeline would pose a significant cultural impact on the region. (10) The State Department postponed making a decision on the pipeline in late 2011 to find alternative routes around the sensitive Sandhills region in Nebraska for the pipeline. “After first saying XL would not have significant adverse effects on the environment, it advised TransCanada to explore alternative routes in Nebraska because the Sandhills region is a fragile ecosystem.” (3) Finally in 2013 President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline application as Congress passed a 60-day deadline on the President to make a decision. President Obama said the deadline prevented a complete assessment of the pipeline's impact. In early 2013, Mother Jones reported that key personnel involved in a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) released at the same time also preformed contract work for TransCanada, creating a conflict-of-interest in the environmental report. (1) The EPA rated the SEIS a 2; insufficient information. The EPA also wrote a letter written by the assistant administrator of the EPA in response to the State Department’s SEIS. The letter says the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline could increase greenhouse gas emissions if the price of oil rose above $65 a barrel. The SEIS states oil sands production produces 17% more pollution than conventional oil. So demand for oil sands by rail would fall if oil was below $65 a barrel. At the time oil was $51 a barrel. (5) Farmers living in Nebraska and Texas are also against the pipeline because of eminent domain. Eminent domain is a law in the U.S. which allows the government to seize private land with compensation in the interest of the public. The problem farmers are having is the pipeline isn’t in the interest of the public. The pipeline will only create ~30 permanent jobs and not realistically affect the economy. The government does not have a suitable reason for applying eminent domain to landowners on the Keystone XL route. Some farmers are also against where the oil comes from in the pipeline. “When I found out and saw pictures of the Tar Sand, I was like, oh, my gosh, that just looks like a horrific thing…” (2) The way oil is extracted in Alberta is by literally digging up the earth and extracting the oil from that. Oil companies in Alberta destroy millions of acres mining the oil this way. Farmers and landowners are trying to protect their land from the damage the pipeline could cause on property they own. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with the people who are hurt by the pipeline. In early 2015, Congress voted 62-36 and 270-152 in favor of a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and bypass presidential support. President Obama vetoed the bill and the Senate didn't have the 2/3 majority to override the veto (62-37). Now more recently, President Trump in 2017 approved the application of the Keystone XL pipeline. “In his latest moves to dismantle the legacy of his predecessor, Mr. Trump resurrected the Keystone XL pipeline that had stirred years of debate…” (6) President Obama rejected TransCanada’s proposal to stay in line with his climate change promises and President Trump thinks the pipeline will help create energy independence and a stronger economy.
An oil pipeline


A stakeholder is a person or group of people who hold an interest in the actions of a company or business. The stakeholders involved in TransCanada's ethical problems with Keystone XL are the stockholders in TransCanada, people working the oil sands in Alberta, construction workers that would build the pipeline, people who own the land the pipeline would cross, and the U.S. government. Stockholders in TransCanada have an obvious interest in the case because TransCanada is building the pipeline to make a larger profit, which increases stock price, which benefits the stockholders. People working in the oil sands of Alberta are interested in this case because the pipeline would help increase the production of oil in the region, creating more jobs but also creating more pollution problems in the area. TransCanada will also need to hire roughly 28,000 temporary construction workers to build the pipeline. People living and owning land in the area of the pipeline have an interest in the case because of the reduction in quality of life the pipeline could bring and the use of eminent domain by the government to provide TransCanada with the land necessary to build the pipeline. The U.S. government has an interest in the case because they have to issue a permit for TransCanada to build the pipeline while using eminent domain to provide TransCanada with land.


CEO of TransCanada Russell Girling

Individualism is a philosophical theory which gives importance to an individual's rights and desires. Individualism says everyone has a right to pursue their own interest and no one has a right to make other people’s choices about their pursuits. Libertarianism is very similar to Individualism but is applied to how the government interacts with its citizens. Milton Friedman, a Nobel Prize winning economist, took Individualism and applied it to businesses. Friedman said a company’s sole purpose is to maximise profit for the owner or stockholders while operating inside the law. TransCanada, in this case, was trying to maximise profits for their stockholders, and was operating within the law. The pipeline would bring more profit to TransCanada, increasing the prices of their stock which increases the profit of the stockholders. TransCanada will profit even more than normal because the government will pay out the compensation for eminent domain usage instead of TransCanada. If an oil spill happens along the pipeline route however, TransCanada and therefore the stockholders may not profit due to public outrage and clean-up costs. While Keystone XL is already a hot topic, an oil spill from the pipeline would completely ruin TransCanada’s public image and their stocks would go down in price. But, considering all this, this case conforms to Milton Friedman’s idea of Individualism and is ethical. TransCanada is trying to obtain the largest profit they can, and the Keystone XL pipeline is not illegal. Individualism is narrow in its applications though, as it doesn’t take into account all the stakeholders affected by the company. 


Utilitarianism is an ethical theory based around the happiness of all involved in an action. Utilitarianism states the best action is one that maximizes utility. Utility is defined differently by different people, but generally is the well-being of sentient entities, like animals and people. Jeremy Bentham, the founder of Utilitarianism, describes utility as the sum of all pleasure and pain gained from an action, pleasure being positive and pain being negative. So, according to Utilitarianism, animals are a stakeholder in this case with pollution and the destruction of their home the main interest. TransCanada’s stockholders are happy because of the increased profits gained from the pipeline, but they represent a small portion of the stakeholders. Workers involved with oil production and construction of the pipeline are happy in this case with the increase in jobs and the growth of the economy around Alberta. The workers in Alberta and workers building the pipeline are a larger group than the stockholders, but still do not represent the majority of the stakeholders. The largest group of stakeholders are the people whose land is being taken by the government and the animals hurt by the pollution in Alberta and the pollution along the pipeline. The farmers and landowners are definitely not happy with their land being taken from them without a say by the government. And the animals affected by this pipeline are hurt when their homes will be destroyed and their lives threatened by construction of the pipeline and increased oil production in Alberta. Therefore, according to Utilitarianism, this case is not ethical. Utilitarianism is also flawed like Individualism. Utilitarianism only focuses on the end, and not the means. Slavery shouldn’t be used even if it is for a common good. 


Immanuel Kant was a german philosopher during the Enlightenment. Kant is considered a central figure in modern philosophy and developed an ethical theory based on actions rather than the results. Kantianism states the only good thing is goodwill; an action is only good if it follows moral laws. Actions must be rational and have good intentions. Actions cannot be in contrast to established moral laws and must benefit someone in someway. Individual freedoms and rights must also be respected. TransCanada does not respect the individual rights people have to their property along the pipeline route by using eminent domain to take their land. TransCanada is acting rational however by building a pipeline to improve the profit of the company. The means is appropriate according to Kant, and the ends is also appropriate; as a business it is their job to increase profit for their stockholders. TransCanada is respecting the workers involved with the pipeline and oil in Alberta by providing jobs and economic growth. However, the treatment of farmers and landowners along the pipeline route is unacceptable to Kant, and therefore this case is unethical. This case could become ethical if TransCanada would respect the landowner's wishes to not have a pipeline built on their land. All of the above ethical theories are limited to the actions and results of said actions. They don't look at the human characteristics that have led to this action and result happening. 

Virtue Theory

Virtue Theory is an ethical theory that focuses on the human characteristics of the action of a business or company. Suppose someone is in need of help. A utilitarian would help because it would maximize the happiness of everyone. A Kantian would help because they would be acting within a moral rule, such as "do unto others as you would be done by" . A virtue ethicist would help because it is charitable and benevolent to help someone. A virtue is a trait of character considered good and benevolent to have as a trait. A vice is the exact opposite of virtue, a bad and malevolent trait to have. The four main virtues in business are: honesty, temperance, courage, and justice. Honesty is useful in doing business with other companies, and in treating employees with respect. Temperance is useful in keeping a company under reasonable control; preventing a company from making aggressive mergers. Courage is the ability for a company to take a stand for what is right. Justice is the application of hard work, good ideas, and fair practice to achieve a better company. TransCanada follows the honesty virtue and the justice virtue but not the temperance or justice virtue. TransCanada wants to create more jobs with the pipeline and help the economy, albeit indirectly. TransCanada is putting in hard work to counter the resistance encountered with the construction of the pipeline too. TransCanada doesn't want to talk about how they are taking land from people or how TransCanada is being very aggressive in its expansion of the Keystone pipeline system. This case is difficult to analyze as a virtue ethicist, as TransCanada has represented some, but not all, virtues of businesses. 

Justified Ethics Evaluation

In my opinion, TransCanada did not act ethically in this case. The Keystone XL pipeline cutting through people's land, which they don’t want, is wrong, and making them have the pipeline is worse. The government is misusing eminent domain powers to give TransCanada their pipeline. The pipeline will increase oil production in Alberta which cause irreparable damage to the environment in Alberta. An oil spill cause by the Keystone XL pipeline would also cause a lot of damage to the environment, which everyone depends on. 


(1) Kroll, Andy, Elbert Barnes/Flickr, Kate Sheppard, Suzanne Goldenberg, Michael Klare, Pema Levy, Nathalie Baptiste, and Ben Dreyfuss. "EXCLUSIVE: State Dept. Hid Contractor's Ties to Keystone XL Pipeline Company." Mother Jones. Mother Jones, 21 Mar. 2013. Web. 04 Apr. 2017. <>.

(2) Seigel, Robert. "Nebraskan Farmer Voices Opposition To Keystone XL Pipeline." NPR. NPR, 3 Nov. 2015. Web. 31 Jan. 2017. <>.

(3) "Keystone XL Pipeline: Why Is It so Disputed?" BBC News. BBC, 24 Jan. 2017. Web. 30 Jan. 2017. <>.

(4) DAVIS, JULIE H. "Obama Won’t Yield to Company’s Bid to Delay Keystone Pipeline Decision." The New York Times. New York Times, 3 Nov. 2015. Web. 30 Jan. 2017. <®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=40&pgtype=collection&_r=0>.

(5) Davenport, Coral. "E.P.A. Says Pipeline Could Spur Emissions." The New York Times. New York Times, 3 Feb. 2015. Web. 30 Jan. 2017. <>.

(6) Baker, Peter, and Coral Davenport. "Drumpf Revives Keystone Pipeline Rejected by Obama." The New York Times. New York Times, 24 Jan. 2017. Web. 30 Jan. 2017. <>.

(7) "Vision and Strategies." TransCanada Corporation. Http://, n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2017. <>.  

(8) "Our Business At A Glance." (n.d.): n. pag. Mar. 2017. Web. 4 Apr. 2017. <>.

(9) "Report of the Annual Meeting." (n.d.): n. pag. TransCanada Corporation. TransCanada, Feb. 2017. Web. 4 Apr. 2017. <>.

(10)     Tracy, Tennille, and Edward Welsch. "News and Information for the Downstream Oil and Gas Industry." Your Refinery, Petrochem, Pipeline and LNG Destination. DownStreamToday, 26 Aug. 2011. Web. 05 Apr. 2017. <>.

(11)     Israel, Josh. "TransCanada Is Seizing People's Land To Build Keystone, But Conservatives Have Been Dead Silent." ThinkProgress. ThinkProgress, 01 Mar. 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2017. <>.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Toshiba Abuses Accounting Policy When Reporting Losses on Long-Term Projects (2015)

Toshiba headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.

Since it was founded in the late 1800’s, the Toshiba Corporation has been lauded for its significant role in the advancement and integration of technology in Japanese culture. Because of the accounting irregularities that surfaced in the Summer of 2015, however, the Japanese power-house now finds itself trying to rebuild its reputation.

In February of 2015, Japan’s Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission suspected accounting irregularities at the Toshiba corporation and began a probe investigation (Nagata, 2015). They were to investigate Toshiba’s “profit recognition on large long-term projects in the areas of nuclear, hydroelectric, and wind-powered equipment; air traffic control, and other systems” (Verschoor, 2015). Specifically, the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission was to investigate Toshiba’s practice of the “percentage-of-completion” accounting principle (Koichi, Hideki, Taigi, & Kazuyasu, 2015, p. 13). 

When the Toshiba Corporation received the report order from the Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission, it willingly conducted an internal investigation on the matter (Koichi, Hideki, Taigi, & Kazuyasu, 2015, p. 13). It was not until April 2015 that the firm realized the seriousness of the issue and announced its troubles to the public. During this time, the Toshiba Corporation determined that its profits were overstated—it was unknown by how much. After realizing the gravity of the accounting errors, Toshiba established a third-party investigation committee “led by a former top prosecutor and aided by outside lawyers and accountants” (Verschoor, 2015).

The findings of the report prepared by the Special Investigation Committee, released in July of 2015, were astonishing and revealed several wrongdoings of the Toshiba corporation. First, the report “cited Toshiba’s toxic ethical tone at the top as the major cause of the improper accounting practices” (Verschoor, 2015). Second, the report disclosed that Toshiba had inflated profits of at least $1.2 billion (Verschoor, 2015). Furthermore, the Special Investigation Committee determined that the internal control systems at Toshiba did not function correctly or sufficiently. Therefore, the committee cited various forms of internal controls to be the indirect cause of Toshiba’s accounting fraud. 

CEO Hisao Tanaka bows deeply in remorse during public apology. 
In light of the scandal, Toshiba’s chief executive officer, Hisao Tanaka, and vice chairman, Norio Sasaki, resigned in July of 2015 (Soble J. , 2015). Shortly after, Toshiba began exploring ways to prevent this situation from reoccurring. Toshiba’s immediate solution was to “put one of its other independent directors, Hiroyuki Itami, the former head of the commerce department at Hitotsubashi University, in charge of its audit committee” (Soble J. , 2015). Toshiba announced its long-term solution in December of 2015, when it said that would be cutting roughly 7,000 consumer electronic jobs in an effort to overhaul the company and focus on chips and nuclear energy (Reuters, 2015). Additionally, this accounting scandal had an adverse effect on the corporation’s stock price. Between April of 2015, when Toshiba announced its troubles to the public, and July of 2015, when the Special Investigation Committee submitted its report to Toshiba, share price tumbled more than 25 percent (Soble J. , 2015). As Toshiba began reporting their losses in the following months, share prices continued to decline.


A stakeholder is someone who is affected by the actions of a business. The stakeholders in Toshiba’s accounting scandal are: Toshiba stockholders, Toshiba executives, Japan’s Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission, Toshiba employees in the consumer electronic department and their families, Toshiba’s accounting department, and Toshiba’s customers. Toshiba executives and accounting department employees have an interest in the case because they are directly responsible for the false reporting of project losses. Toshiba’s employees in the consumer electronic department and their families are affected by the case because roughly 7,000 employees from that department were fired so that Toshiba might recover from the scandal. Toshiba stockholders are interested in the case because Toshiba was forced to recognize the losses they failed to record, which caused stock prices to plummet. Toshiba customers are invested in this case because they will no longer be able to purchase consumer electronics from Toshiba. Finally, the Japan Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission has an interest in this case because they are responsible for catching fraudulent reporting of financial statements.

Hiroyuki Itami was named interim audit director as a result of the scandal. 
Individualism is a broad ethical theory that states that the sole obligation of a business is to maximize stockholder wealth within the constraints of the law. First, Toshiba did not maximize stockholder wealth. Toshiba reported revenue numbers that were much higher than actual numbers. While that may have profited stockholders in the short-run, Toshiba did not profit stockholders in the long run because they were forced to report their losses, which drove stock prices down. Second, Toshiba did not act within the constraints of the law. Not only is it illegal for a corporation to report fake numbers, but it is also illegal for Toshiba is incorrectly use the percentage-of-completion accounting principle. For these reasons, an individualist would declare Toshiba’s actions unethical.

Utilitarianism is the belief that a business' actions should aim to maximize the happiness all conscious beings that are affected by the business action. Utilitarianism allows businesses to pursue the interests of their stakeholders even if every individual action does not directly profit the business. Utilitarians judge the ethicality of an action by weighing the overall happiness of all stakeholders involved.
A laptop is an example of a consumer electronic
Therefore, the first step is to measure the happiness of all the people affected by Toshiba's actions. Overall, Toshiba's stakeholders are unhappy. Specifically, the roughly 7,000 consumer electronic employees who lost their jobs because of this scandal, along with their families, are the unhappiest. Additionally, the customers who bought those consumer electronic products are also unhappy because they will no longer be able to buy Toshiba products. In the long run, Toshiba's stockholders are unhappy because the scandal caused stock price to drop 40 percent over eight months (Reuters, 2015). The Toshiba executives that resigned because of their involvement with the scandal are another example of unhappy stakeholders. Their criminal actions were exposed and they were forced to apologize to their stockholders and customers. Likewise, the employees in the accounting department are unhappy because their seven yearlong scheme was exposed and corrected. The only relatively happy stakeholder related to Toshiba's accounting scandal is Japan's Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission because they successfully identified and reported Toshiba's accounting errors. Because, overall, the interests of the stakeholders were not met and therefore their happiness was not maximized, a Utilitarian would view Toshiba's actions as unethical.

The basic principles of Kantianism say to always act in ways that respect and honor individuals and their choices. Instead of lying, cheating, stealing, or performing other deceitful actions, businesses should use informed and rational consent from all parties. Kant believes that the only thing that is good in itself is good will. Kantians judge the ethicality of an action on two things: (1) rationality and (2) motivation.
For an action to be rational, it must align with the Formula of Humanity, which states that to act rationally means to “treat all people as ends and never only as means” (DesJardins, 2014, p. 38). This can be interpreted to mean that people “have their own ends and purposes and therefore should not be treated simply as a means to the end of others” (DesJardins, 2014, p. 38). When subjected to the Law of Humanity, a Kantian would view Toshiba’s actions as unethical because Toshiba, specifically upper management, treated their employees as a mean—something that is valuable as a way to get to something else. When told that certain projects had incurred losses, managers and senior management alike instructed employees to postpone the reporting of those losses (Koichi, Hideki, Taigi, & Kazuyasu, 2015).
Kantian principles state that for an action to be rightly motivated, it must come from moral law or duty. Kant believes that “[i]f we are motivated to do the right thing because it is the right thing, then we are performing actions that are not merely in accordance with morality, but are in fact moral” (Salazar Kantian Essay page 13). A Kantian would conclude that Toshiba’s actions are not moral because they stem from motivations of self-interest. Toshiba’s management concealed the losses on long-term projects to protect the reputation of the business they were working for. Additionally, Toshiba’s management had a personal interest in making sure that their salaries continued to be fulfilled. In conclusion, a Kantian would view Toshiba’s actions as unethical because they are irrational and stem from the wrong type of motivation. 

Virtue Theory
Virtue ethics is “a tradition within philosophical ethics that seeks a full and detailed description of those character traits, or virtues, that would constitute a good and full human life” (DesJardins, 2014, p. 41). A virtue is a characteristic that allows something to function properly. A vice is the opposite in that it is a negative characteristic that is likely to lead us to a life of unhappiness. The four main virtues in business are: courage, honesty, temperance, and justice. Toshiba possesses none of these virtues because it did not stand for the right ideas and actions, they lied to the public and stockholders, had unreasonable expectations of their employees, and unfair practices. For these reasons, Toshiba is neither virtuous nor ethical. 

Justified Ethics Evaluation
I view Toshiba's actions as highly unethical. Overall, I agree with the findings of the ethical theories used to analyze this case. Specifically, I am appalled by Toshiba's corporate governance, which did not allow employees to go against the wrongful, illegal intentions of their superiors. One thing I think the ethical theories fail to address, however, is the fact that Tohsiba willingly hired an independent investigation committee to investigate their accounting practices, which they knew were fraudulent. I admire Toshiba for their willingness to come forward with their internal issues, and I think it was an important step to restoring their reputation. Something else the ethical theories overlook is the position of the accounting department employees, who were being asked to choose between acting ethically and keeping their job. This is a position no employee should ever have to be in. For that reason, I do not fault the accounting department employees for the fraudulent activity they were forced to carry out.


DesJardins, J. (2014). An Introduction to Business Ethics (Fifth ed.). New York: McGraw Hill. 
Koichi, U., Hideki, M., Taigi, I., & Kazuyasu, Y. (2015). Investigation Report: Summary Version. Special Investigation Committee. Tokyo: Toshiba Corporation. 
Nagata, K. (2015, September 18). Pressure to show a profit led to Toshiba's accounting scandal. Retrieved from The Japan Times.
Reuters. (2015, December 21). Toshiba Plans to Fire 7,000 Employees in wake of $1.3 billion Accounting Scandal. Retrieved from Venturebeat:
Soble, J. (2015, July 21). Panel Finds Accounting Irregularities at Toshiba. Retrieved from The New York Times.
Soble, J. (2015, July 22). Scandal Upends Toshiba's Lauded Reputation. Retrieved from The New York Times.
Verschoor, C. C. (2015). Toshiba's Toxic Culture: In Japan where it's disrespectful to disobey orders, a poor tone at the top can be detrimental to a company. Strategic Finance, 18+.