FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, we visited New York City in mid-May to interview Anne Taylor, Managing Partner with Deloitte & Touche.
Even after the eight months since the tragic events, we were moved, seeing the landscape in person rather than through television images. “Ground Zero” was just a large hole in the ground, almost like a construction site, except for the surrounding buildings with boards and covers and the lone “cross” of fallen beams still standing. Signs and displays from elementary school classes, fire and police departments, and individuals around the world still remained on the fence around the neighboring church, though tattered and torn. The names of those who died were posted on a makeshift sign on the visitor platform, reminiscent of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. People walked quietly, remembering, talking in hushed voices in many languages.
The Midtown and Times Square bustle went on as before, or almost. It was there we visited the Deloitte & Touche offices. We saw an unusual number of people in the reception area, but none of them seemed to be visitors. They were occupying each chair and table with their lap top computers and cell phones. More workers were using the conference rooms, copy rooms, and hallways. Small offices probably intended for one person had several people crowded together. These were employees who had been displaced from damaged buildings around the World Trade Center, thankful for any spot to work. Offices will be rebuilt and space will open up, but the old status symbols of office size, windows, and furniture, will likely never mean quite as much as they used to.
The ethical failures leading to the demise of Enron and Arthur Andersen followed closely on the heels of the terrorist attacks in New York. Together, these events tell us it is time to reflect on what is important in business. It is time once again to dust off the discussions of sound business ethics in an age of technology.
In addition to our usual features, this issue of Ethix (marking the completion of four years of publication, by the way) contains our first web site review. We plan to do more of this in the future. We also present a great essay on three things that can cause us to go off the “ethics track” in spite of our good intentions. The author is Jeff Van Duzer, who recently became dean of the School of Business and Economics at Seattle Pacific University after many years as managing partner of a Seattle law firm. We believe he makes a powerful, if sometimes uncomfortable, statement we should all consider.