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Some time ago, I was assigned by upper management to work on a project with a client of our company. As the project progressed, the client became upset that our company hadn't assigned anyone else to work on the project (apparent this was explicitly stated in the contract). When I relayed the client's concerns to our management team, they just deflected by saying "the client shouldn't be addressing that with you." I then pressed them to explain how they would like communication to work with this client. They asked me to just tell the client to contact them with any such concerns directly. I then relayed this back to the client.

The client then attempted to contact our management team and didn't receive any form of response. The client became even more upset and I again relayed the concerns of the client to our management team. They responded in the same way as before leaving me in a position of not being able to deescalate the situation with the client.

Recently, a member of our management team mistakenly included me in an email thread and there was a discussion between other members of management that basically stated they had no intention of seeing the project through to completion, they just wanted to create the illusion for the client that we were actually working on it. That explains why management wasn't communicating with me in regards to the project and why they weren't responding to the client.

The individual who mistakenly included me on the email immediately realized it and warned me that email was confidential and I was not to discuss it with anyone. Because I felt this presented an ethical issue, I scheduled a meeting with upper management and told them I cannot proceed working on this project if there is no intention of seeing it through. I was then warned that my job is at stake and the meeting was ended.

I am a bit confused as how to proceed from here. It's obvious that I need to leave my job. My question then is is it advisable to quit immediately or stick around to let things play out? Do I have any obligation to inform the client of what I have discovered about this project?

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    Consult an attorney. NOW. You have knowledge of something that may well be civil fraud, possibly even criminal fraud. – John R. Strohm Feb 12 at 18:13
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    This is exactly why you do NOT let yourself become a point of contact between a client and a company. There is nothing positive in it for you. A bit late now though. – Kilisi Feb 12 at 19:28
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    Dude do you work for an actual company or like a Cutco MLM scheme – Prince M Feb 13 at 20:48
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See an employment lawyer immediately. Your company may be engaging in fraud. Print out a copy of that email and bring it to your lawyer and find out what your rights and responsibilities are from this point forward.

Update your resume, and start floating it. They know you saw something you weren't supposed to see. If they're willing to do something unethical to the possible point of criminality to a client, they would be willing to do at least as much to an employee.

You should get out ASAP regardless, as they're shown that they are not to be trusted.

When you meet with your lawyer, be sure to bring anything you have with you, and be sure to tell them of the meeting with management and the threats against you.

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    Getting out sounds like the only solution. If (no, when) the client figures out what's going on and sues the company, if the company turns over emails, it's going to become apparently that the OP knew what was going on. If he continues working on the fake project, seems like he'd be considered part of the fraud. – DaveG Feb 13 at 2:28
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Do I have any obligation to inform the client of what I have discovered about this project?

This is really the only question in my opinion.

No, you're under no professional obligation. But you've tagged the question 'ethics'. Ethics are a personal thing, but to my mind I see you have a dilemna. The consequences of telling the client are unknown on the clients side, and since you have nothing in writing may not even be believed.

Therefore before anything else, you should at least get proof even if it's just an email stating that your job is on the line or anything that corroborates your story. Until you have this don't do anything except job search.

Lastly there may be positive consequences to informing the client if done properly. You would have risked a lot on their behalf taking the high ground (in their perception) when you didn't have to. Assuming you have built a good rapport as well this can be a big reputation boost and pay you back in the future. I did something similar when a client was being sold refurbished equipment as brand new and a couple of years later when I was looking for work they came knocking on my door. This would be of lesser value if it's a big client, but a smaller one where everyone knows everyone is different.

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Sounds like the safest way out of this is for the project to get killed by the client ASAP. If you can allow some other reason for them to do so, to materialize, which cannot possibly be blamed on you, it would cause the least harm to everyone.

If you confront your employer (i.e. if they find out you are consulting lawyers, which you should still do just as a safeguard if you can afford it), your employer may try to retaliate and make your life really hard. Consider your future with this company over, but you may need to stay in peace for a period of time while you find something better, so not necessarily a good idea to provoke a confrontation.

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