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I work for a financial company (listed on the stock exchange) and some of the stuff they do are not ethical/legal. For instance:

  • tax evasion
  • not paying for software licenses
  • using data from some providers in ways which are not in agreement with their terms
  • scrapping websites for data without paying
  • firing people without a good reason ("we give you money to leave, or we could hurt your reputation")
  • making people work at night without any written agreement/compensation
  • paying people with complicated schemes to avoid paying taxes or social contributions

The speech the management is giving is very hypocrite, they did not do "tax evasion" but changed things to "catch better opportunities". Or they say that "The company would not earn money if we did not do that". People are not really fired, they "met a mutual agreement to end their collaboration".

I considered leaving the company because I do not adhere to those standards. However, it pays really good and I earn almost 70% more than I would in any other company for the job I am doing. It lead me in a complicated position where in the short term, for my financial success it is a very good opportunity to stay there. Moreover, I still want to stay because there are a lot of positive things about this company (not just the money).

I believe most people in the company are good people but orders are coming from the management, and nobody wants to get in trouble with the bosses.

Moreover, there is this mentality that "everybody in the industry is doing this", or people are just playing dumb saying "I am not a layer", or refuse to see the truth "I don't know what they do but it must be legal I guess".

I considered several options:

  • not saying anything and keep doing my job, as if nothing is happening
  • raising my concern to my boss (outcome some coleague received: if you are unhappy, the door is open and you can leave the company)
  • denouncing the company to the authorities as it does not respect the law in several aspect
  • sending detailled informations to a newspaper
  • leaving the company, despite the loss in salary
  • get evidences to build a case against them

What really bother me is that I know that the company would still make a profit without all these bad behaviors, and that most people are probably not adhering to them. But the greediness of the management make a lot of good individual people do unethical things.

I wonder if there are some ways I can change things from the inside (given the fact that I am not in a managerial position).

Here are some of my thoughts:

  • starting a union (would not be welcome at all)
  • writting an open letter (anonymous or not?)
  • talking to my boss of a small matter at first (like software licensing) to engage the discussion

Is this even possible or am I just a dreamer in believing that? What would you advise me to do in such a situation?

closed as too broad by gnat, Masked Man, WorkerWithoutACause, mcknz, keshlam Nov 26 '16 at 17:47

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    I suppose you would like to keep your over-market salary after the company starts doing things ethical, even though that high salary is only possible because of the unethical behavior? – corsiKa Nov 24 '16 at 21:02
  • @corsiKa I believe the biggest impact of being more ethical would be on the shareholders dividend. So I do not believe high salary is only possible because of unethical behavior. The company was greatly profitable before they started to evade tax, and paying for software licences for instance is really affordable for that company. So for me these behaviors are purely driven by greed and not by "if we do things cleanly we go bankrupt". Of course if the company earns a lot less money because it is more ethical it would be normal for me to earn less and pay more taxes as well. – user60762 Nov 24 '16 at 21:28
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    What is your role and position in the company? – Thomas Owens Nov 25 '16 at 0:15
  • How does earning less go with paying more taxes? – Masked Man Nov 25 '16 at 6:00
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    Depending on the country you're in, I would advise you to check if there are laws to protect whistleblowers, and if you would qualify as a whistle blower. And of course to quit and find a place where you feel comfortable working. – Puzzled Nov 25 '16 at 10:26
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"am I just a dreamer in believing that?"

I wouldn't call you a dreamer. Instead, I would choose the words dangerously naïve. The chances of you changing their practices are effectively zero. By making waves you're likely to become one of those folks who "met a mutual agreement to end their collaboration".

If the company's practices are truly so odious as to trigger moral qualms, then you should quit. It's that simple. If they are engaged in criminal, or morally corrupt tasks which you cannot, ethically, be a part of then you should start looking for a new job and tender your resignation as soon as you have a new offer.

You could, of course, go further, gather evidence against your bosses, and contact the authorities with that information. It's a long, and tricky road, however, and I wouldn't go down it unless you had some very serious moral convictions on the matter.

If the money is a big motivator for you however, then keep your head down, do the job, and maintain plausible deniability of any and all criminal practices (don't leave a paper trail of complaining about missing license keys, tax evasion, etc. as this could potentially render you an accomplice to their criminal acts). Later, if you get truly uncomfortable with their practices simply leave and never look back.

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    Collect your money and mind your own business, or leave – Kilisi Nov 24 '16 at 22:56
  • More so - if they are engaged in sufficiently criminal or morally corrupt tasks and you know about it, then by not resigning or making waves you're tacitly condoning it. Which could be awkward to explain should the authorities decide to intervene. – Julia Hayward Nov 25 '16 at 9:30
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If you KNOW that you are benefiting from illegal activity, that makes you an accessory or accomplice (a passive role, but still a role). Forget about trying to save the company - you should really be thinking about saving your own neck. If your company is ever investigated, it may be hard to deny that you know anything about what they do. Should that be the case, friend: you'll be on the hook.

Get out while you can.

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The first thing to do is to rethink what your options are. Most of what you present would probably have negative outcomes. Raising your concerns to your boss (especially if management is involved), building a case yourself, writing open letters with your name on it probably won't end well for you in a company that has a history of unethical or illegal practices - likely quickly unemployed without references.

Next, consider your ethical responsibilities. You need to make a decision yourself, but consider any codes of ethics that apply to you. I'm a software engineer, so I can look to the Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice. Also, look to any professional organizations that you are a member of - many (if not all) have specific ethical codes that apply to members. You can use these to frame your decision making process. But at the end of the day, you need to be able to live with yourself.

Personally, I'd immediately begin to look for a new job. I don't see myself able to work for a company that has such significant ethical lapses. Even if nothing illegal is happening, it's not the kind of company culture that brings out the best in people, and likely isn't worth the stress even for the higher salary. But I'd also begin doing other things.

For each of the specific legal violations, there are specific things that you can do. For tax fraud, you can report it to your country's taxation or revenue service (in the US, the IRS has resources for reporting suspected tax fraud and since you mention working in the financial sector, it's usually regulated by some government body). For unlicensed software, you can report it to the BSA | The Software Alliance or (for software produced by larger companies, directly, such as to Microsoft, Oracle, or Apple - simply search "report piracy to {company}" on your favorite search engine). For using data or accessing services in violation of the terms of service, you can go right to the service provider.

Some of the other things you mention may or may not be legal. In the United States, most states are employment-at-will, meaning that you don't need a good reason to fire people. Requiring shift work may also be totally fine in order to meet business needs.

  • "codes of ethics" Yes! Read the user's manual for Staying Clean in a Crooked World. – RedSonja Nov 25 '16 at 13:06
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This management operates on raw power and frankly, the power dynamics doesn't favor you if you were to engage in any kind of direct confrontation with them. You know they are going to pull out all the stops and they have lawyers, right?

Every one of the actions you are thinking of taking - starting a union, writing an open letter, talking to your boss of a small matter at first (like software licensing) to engage the discussion - shows your hand and exposes you to investigation and retaliation. You are the nail that sticks out and will be hammered own.

I am going to be blunt. In view of your child-like naivete, I estimate that you are your own worst enemy. You don't have the experience and I don't think you have the brains to take them on by yourself. You're in over your head. Try to get a powerful, experienced entity to back you up. Like a law enforcement agency. And work with it to build a legal case against them. Acknowledge your limitations and work well within them - this means, don't even think of doing anything by yourself. Get your own lawyer if you can, because your lawyer may be the only one whose agenda is to look out for you in this saga: the company and the law enforcement agency are sharks, and you are just a sardine at a sharks' banquet.

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