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Understanding the Ethical Dilemmas Facing Governing Boards
From corporations to universities to not-for-profit organizations, governing boards have recently come under intense scrutiny. Owners and the public rely on these boards to guide organizations toward their goals and to prevent improper behavior. To encourage accountability, we need to identify and understand the difficult ethical decisions all directors and trustees face.
What's at Stake
The recent failure of some boards to provide adequate oversight has contributed to misbehavior and even to organizational collapse. Though only a very small handful of organizations are involved, great harm has been done to thousands of shareholders, employees, and others dependent on those organizations. But the greatest harm has been done to the trust the public has placed in business and other organizations and their governing boards. While there are hundreds of regulatory proposals for increased accountability, they cannot cover every conceivable issue a board member faces. Board members and trustees are inevitably faced with ethical decisions as well as management, financial, legal, and strategic ones. Thoughtful consideration of the ethical dimension of these choices can lead to better decisions and to greater trust in American governing bodies.