Ethical responsibility

Anna Williams, CPA, was recently hired as assistant controller of GroChem Inc., which processes chemicals for use in fertilizers. Williams was selected for this position because of her past experience in chemical processing. During her first month on the job, Williams made a point of getting to know the people responsible for the plant operations and learning how things are done at GroChem.

During a conversation with the plant supervisor, Williams asked about the company procedures for handling toxic waste materials. The plant supervisor replied that he was not involved with the disposal of wastes and suggested that Williams might be wise to ignore this issue. This response strengthened Williams’s determination to probe this area further to be sure that the company was not vulnerable to litigation.

On further investigation, Williams discovered evidence that GroChem was using a nearby residential landfill to dump toxic wastes—an illegal activity. It appeared that some members of GroChem’s management team were aware of this situation and may have been involved in arranging for this dumping; however, Williams was unable to determine whether her superior, the controller, was involved.

Uncertain how she should proceed, Williams began to consider her options by outlining the following two alternative courses of action:

Seek the advice of her superior, the controller.
Anonymously release the information to the local newspaper.
Discuss why Williams has an ethical responsibility to take some action in the matter of GroChem Inc. and the dumping of toxic wastes. Refer to the code of professional ethics in Exhibit 1-7 to support your answer.
For each of the two alternative courses of action that Williams has outlined, explain whether or not the action is appropriate according to the guidelines presented in Exhibit 1-7.
Assume that Williams sought the advice of her superior, the controller, and discovered that the controller was involved in the dumping of toxic wastes. Describe the steps that Williams should take to resolve this situation.

Sample Solution