Rarely does one individual’s decision or action create an ethical crisis entirely by itself. More often, someone’s unethical or illegal idea is adopted by other members of the company, and the problem grows within the organization until it erupts in headlines, bad publicity, and sometimes criminal penalties. After the fact, the questions always arise: How did that happen? Didn’t anyone know it was going on? Why didn’t someone stop it?
Recently, Volkswagen found itself in just such a position, when it was discovered that the software in the company’s diesel vehicles had been programmed to provide false data to regulators regarding the level of emissions produced by the cars.
In his article “Volkswagen: Where Were the Lawyers?” Lippe (2015) questions the role that several groups within the company played in the scandal, most notably the company’s lawyers and engineers. See