In the New York Times article The Tale of The Corporate Spy by Barry Meier, we are told the tale of Robert Moore, an extremely interesting story with no shortage of ethical issues scattered within. Using the 7 Step Velasquez Model of Decision Making we can use this tale as a case study for complicated ethical issues and how to correct them.
First step to the 7 Steep Velasquez Model of Decision Making is to gather the facts. Robert Moore was a failed movie director/producer. He was in his 40’s, divorced and living back home with mom and dad when he was contacted by K2 Intelligence. They paid him to work as a spy, he snuck into the camps of anti-asbestos groups under the guise of a documentarian working to make a like-minded documentary. His true intentions were far more dastardly; still, the intentions of his employer were crueler that he could imagine. With footage of the activists he would report back to K2. He would have insider knowledge on their whereabouts, strategies, and weaknesses. On the flip-side “He secretly tape-recorded activists, monitored their strategy sessions and, presenting himself as a journalist, did work for the World Health Organization- all while on the payroll of the firm’s asbestos industry client. (Meier, 2018)”
So in quick summary of the K2 Investigation from Moore’s standing at least, we have a man who wanted to be a film-maker but failed. He wanted a chance to come back. K2 offered him that. Albeit, through extremely unorthodox means. Under the guise of a documentarian he filmed anti-asbestos activists giving them false belief that he was making a film that would shed light on the negatives of asbestos use. Meanwhile, this footage was being sent to K2 and investigated by it’s researchers who were working to shut down or counter anti-asbestos research and activism. K2 had it’s hands in a company that owned asbestos mines on the border of Russia. The footage that Moore provided K2 helped them counter research with research of their own by staying ahead of them. He also lead them to Thailand, where he identified as a battle-ground for asbestos construction debate. It was around this time Moore claimed he finally realized the magnitude, and negative effects of his actions. According to Moore he was morally conflicted. One hand, he was helping a clearly harmful organization. On the other hand, he was in a place that gave him the opportunity to foil the plot instead of being replaced by someone who would fulfill the promise and help the continued use of asbestos. The story of Robert Moore is quite a conundrum.
The ethical dillemas here are two-fold. First of all, Moore’s footage was directly helping K2 counter the rising activism against the use of asbestos in developing and 3rd world country. K2’s goal is to have the general public of a nation like Thailand ignorant to the obvious risks and dangers of asbestos. It is an objective fact that the use of asbestos in construction can be fatal. This was known by K2. Moore was, at the least, indirectly help facilitate the continued use of it on the homes of innocent humans. One could argue through the works of Socrates’ main philosophy “Ethical Wisdom” that Moore’s actions were inherently unethical. “The recognition of the fundamental importance of the ethical in the life of man (humankind) and of doing good as the basic principle of human activity (Lecker, 44)”. By this school of thought, Moore was passed unethical actions the first time he sent footage back to K2.
The second ethical dilemma was the information that emerged once the operation was blown up and K2 and Robert Moore were both exposed. It was quickly made known that Robert Moore was getting paid 100K per year during his time as an undercover journalist. Furthermore, journalist was only part of it. In reality, the report sounds as if he acted more as a con-man. “On some cases, Mr. Moore, who had dabbled in journalism before his comedy career, posed as a reporter. He also once disguised himself as a deliveryman with a large floral bouquet to get into a mansion owned by a Russian oligarch. Mr. Moore, who was eager to get back into television, saw as possible fodder for documentaries (Meier, 2018)”. From this angle, it appears that Moore had no intentions of changing any opinions at all on asbestos. He may have been selfishly acting to further his own career with total disregard for others, neither warm nor dastardly. According to Aristotle, Moore would have no responsibility to take care of others unless he made it part of his own habit of life. If he is by habit, selfish, and driven to get back into the movie business, it may not be unethical by Aristotle’s school of thought.
One alternative would have been for Robert Moore to get full in on the operation and not propose the idea to Global Witness of making a “double-agent” scenario. Besides, by not disclosing his salary he was not fully committing to the action. According to Aristotle “Further, all men are to be loved equally. But since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special regard to those who, by (accident)…are brought into closer connections with you (Lecker, 61).” By this school of thought, Moore was in no obligation to help anyone but himself and those he came in close personal contact with. Had he kept this operation under better wraps and worked himself a higher pay raise; or into the movie industry like he wanted, he could have been self-sufficient and able to help random individuals in his life.
A second alternative would be to follow the school of thought by Socrates. Since it is essentially an objective act that asbestos is harmful, and it’s use would be fatal to the construction workers hired to install it, then being a part of this process directly harms a fellow member of human-kind. By this logic it would be ethical to contact Global Witness or a similar organization directly and come clean about any of your knowledge and past actions as soon as realizing it was unethical.
There are three main stakeholders in this scenario. Robert Moore, K2, and countless humans (many in developing nations) who unbeknownst to the entire situation. Robert Moore has a six-figure salary and a possible path on his dream to gain. He has his entire career, and legal ramifications to face if he loses. K2 has, on top of countless legal ramifications, large profit loss (asbestos mines and supplies becoming useless), global relations, and the future of a strong and rising company on the line. Humans unfortunate to work with asbestos without even being educated on the effects and diseases it can manifest have nothing to gain. It is highly unlikely any “savings” made by K2 would be passed on to the construction workers. While on the other hand, they have everything to lose. Asbestos is an extremely dangerous construction material.
Considering the reckless greed and absurdity needed to continue installing asbestos in new buildings despite the consistent research agreeing with it’s harmful effects is inherently unethical. For this reason it is clear that Socrates’ main philosophy of “Ethical Wisdom” is more than applicable.
No matter how you slice it, Robert Moore was acting unethical and selfish. He was fully aware of the dangers of asbestos. Anyone lucky enough to receive a high-school education in a developed country likely knows that. The 100K salary isn’t even the main signifier of his greed. It is already established that Robert Moore knew full and well that asbestos was harmful. If the rallies he attended didn’t sway him, then his proposal to Global Witness is evidence he knew the whole time. Except he wasn’t there to come clean, he was there to try and flip over to the morally correct side without ditching his documentary. Although he was able to discern what was ethically correct and what was ethically wrong (hurting humankind vs. not hurting human kind), he was not able to put more importance on this ethical dilemma than his dreams of breaking into the movie industry.
If the most ethical alternative was chosen (Ethical Wisdom) tradeoffs for the stake holders would be as follows.
Robert Moore would be at the mercy of the law. He would be in their favor though being the original whistle-blower. It is impossible to accurately predict what would have come of Moore legally, but it is fair to assume he would not have faced jail-time given his ulterior motive and the fact that he was left in the dark for much of the operation.
K2 would face full blunt of legal ramifications. They would end up having for their asbestos mines in Russia, leading to an immense loss of profit. Contracts would fall through globally. This would lead to strains on the companies relations across the world as well as its own longevity.
The people who would be constructing these asbestos based homes or living in them would be able to avoid the inconvience of being around a material that will likely shorten their lifespan by 30 plus years.
Following the 7 Step Velasquez Model of Decision Making, and basing my decision on the facts at hand, the stakeholders, and their possible tradeoffs, that action to take appears obvious to me. Following the school of thought lead by Socrates, “Ethical Wisdom” should have been used by anyone involved in this absolutely immoral operation to know that selling a poisonous material to people who don’t know it is poisonous is unethical. For the sake of all the victims lives that would be trampled and shortened by the greed of Moore and K2, I would gladly take the course of action of following Ethical Wisdom and blowing the whistle on this operation. I would have no sympathy for K2 as they filled in their mines, and I would have no feelings for Robert Moore as he went a different path to pursue the movie business. The most important thing, is that the greater good, being good to the greater human population, was what was catered to.