Leadership

Sonja Thompson, Ethics Officer


I'm finally making my way through recent editions of TechRepublic's IT News Digest newsletter, which I intentionally flagged in my inbox so that I could go back and blog about some of the more interesting news stories that have bubbled up to the surface.

One of these stories is about HP hiring a new ethics officer (a gentleman by the name of Jon Hoak). I took an ethics class in college, but I had no idea that there was actually a job market for this sort of position. And after all of the hoopla surrounding HP lately, I'm even more surprised that they already HAD an ethics officer (Kevin Hunsaker, who is now facing criminal charges for his role in the company's leak probe).

I've worked for TechRepublic for seven years (as of this month - the 18th to be exact), but I've never heard of such a position. Sonja Thompson, Ethics Officer. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? Does your company have an ethics officer?

About

Sonja Thompson has worked for TechRepublic since October of 1999. She is currently a Senior Editor and the host of the Smartphones and Tablets blogs.

12 comments
dawgit
dawgit

Will you get a raise to go with this? Free training maybe? (Who wouldn't want a Law Degree hanging on the wall?) I'll even send you some Aspirn too. No, when I think about it maybe not, I wouldn't want to see you in Prison PJs because someone else was an Idiot, and you get stuck with it, - Because YOU were the Ethics Officier. No, I can't do that to you.

onbliss
onbliss

So what does an Ethics Officer do really?

JamesRL
JamesRL

1) come up withmaintain a code of corporate conduct. I participated in that at one Fortune 100 company. 2) Investigate any complaints about ethics violations. 3) Educate the work force about the code of conduct. James

onbliss
onbliss

But a separate position to do these baffles me. Why is it not possible for the legal department to do this job as well?

dawgit
dawgit

While, I don't mean to question you in your statement, the logic is faulty. In that: "Legal department is responsible to senior management", they might be required to answer to the upper-echelon management, they are supposed to be responsible for the 'whole' company, not only the management. There by also protecting the company from the (possible miss-)management, of those sitting in the 'easy chairs'. That the legal departments might be dislecsic by being "Yes-Manish" to some in management, is the problem HP is facing.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Legal department is responsible to senior management. They are there to make sure that no information gets out that could cause employees, customers, shareholders to sue. They recommend when to settle lawsuits, when to get people to sign non-disclosures etc. Can you not see how at times that would conflict with an ethics counsellor's position? James

dawgit
dawgit

Isn't exactly what a legal dept is for than? Of course they're not going to represent an individual as such, but when in the interest of the company as a whole, then naturally the individual is covered, good or bad. That is why the legal dept of HP is in legal hot water. It was their job to prevent individuals from performing illegal acivities involving the company.

onbliss
onbliss

...my takeway is that legal department can not be ethical :-)

JamesRL
JamesRL

The legal department has responsibilities to reduce the exposure of the company to lawsuit(internal and external) and other legal duties which are primarily owed to the board of directors. That conflicts with doing whats right for an individual employee. James

dawgit
dawgit

Carry a big stick? I don't see how a mid, or low level Company officer can help when the worst problems seem to at the top. Realisticly who's going to pull rank on the CEO, as was the case at HP, World Com, ENRON, &, &, &.....

JamesRL
JamesRL

I would imagine that it the threat of documenting some of the issues that would discourage the senior officers, but if the Ethics officer sent a memo to the CEO and copied legal, and both the CEO and legal agreed to ingnore it, I think the Ethics officer would be looking for another position. James

JamesRL
JamesRL

You can hire an ethic officer, but that doesn't mean the task of making your company behave ethically is over. That employer had a 100% guarenteed safe snitch line so employees could report anything they though was unethical. The same company however suffered an accounting scandal and has had to restate its financial statments more times than I can recall. The stock has suffered for it. Did no one call the officer? James

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