Business Ethics in the Internship Swapping Case

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The Major Stakeholders

There are two major stakeholders in the Internship Swapping case, Karen Fletcher and Janet Patterson. Karen has the position of the executive officer at Blackheart Inc, which provides a wide range of financial services. She has a perfect reputation and professional background that gives her significant authority and opportunities in terms of the company’s operations. Janet is an auditor in one of the Big Four accounting companies. They are two old friends with close relationships starting from the university years.

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Ethical Concerns

The proposition made by Janet in order to provide a desirable internship experience to their sons breaks ethical business boundaries. In addition, it is based on the nepotism approach and conflict of interests in the workplace that confronts business ethics and may provoke a problem for both Janet and Karen. This case confronts business ethics which outline the main decision-making criteria in the professional world in order to make ethically correct decisions. However, in the case of the internship swap, organizational objectives may be harmed and affected by lower performance due to unfair candidates’ choice since a better candidate may lose his place in FMIP.

Ethical Theories: “Consequentialism” and “Nepotism”

The most relevant ethical theory is Consequentialism which considers a particular decision either as pleasant or not based on the possible outcome expected after this action. This theory states that a decision that generates more beneficial consequences than harm is better than others involving all affected parties (Singh & Mishra, 2018). Another business ethics phenomenon which are related to this case is Nepotism or Favoritism in the business environment. It outlines special or individual attitude to different employees or potential workers. Nepotism is more about family relationships and connections, while favoritism is based on patronising particular employees and treating them in a better way than the rest of their colleagues (Vveinhardt & Sroka, 2019).

Michael’s and James’s Achievements and Parental Interference

Karen’s and Janet’s sons are not qualified enough in order to get the place in the desirable internship programs. From one point of view, both Michael and James have their significant individual achievements. However, it is not enough for both of them in order to receive their desired internship opportunities. In terms of Michael’s case, his abilities were affected by health issues which resulted in worse academic results. It may be considered as the unfortunate and unfair situation for this person, which has a significant impact on his future career and professional development. He showed good achievements in terms of the educational background and volunteering willingness that may be beneficial to the hiring company. From other side, this is a personal situation, and it should not be a reason for better opportunities or privileged attitude. In the case of James, it is even more unfair to have higher benefits or evaluation in the internship selection of candidates to Big Four, since each person applied to this place may had own problems that are not considered in the hiring processes. Therefore, both sons may not succeed in their goals without parental interference.

Networking or an unfair advantage to the elite

The internship swap under these conditions is considered as unpreferable action due to the unfairness and ethical violation by Karen and Janet. According to Vveinhardt and Sroka (2019), nepotism is quite common in the non-governmental sector and acts as a constant problem in some countries. However, it damages organizational performance and social ethics in the company which creates negative influence on the employees. It may be considered as an unfair benefit of a particular circle of people who have useful connections and good relationships with powerful people. Therefore, it is only an unacceptable privilege for the elite which ignores the rest of potential candidates even if they are better than the ‘elite’ ones.

The AICPA Professional Code of Conduct

According to law, Professional Code of Conduct applies to all members of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Therefore, both Janet and Karen have to follow the rules and regulations suggested by this professional institution. Firstly, the code states that a member must be objective, avoid the conflict of interests and provide professional judgement in any case. Secondly, the due care principle suggests that a member must be directed by business ethics and technical standards, continuously improve competence” (Shawver, 2014). The negligence of any Professional Code of Conduct’s principles is unacceptable and cannot be violated by any member of the AICPA.

If Karen Accepts the Offer

For Karen the main and the most important advantage of the offer is her son’s perspective to pass internship in one of the Big Four companies. This opportunity will help him to achieve significant career benefits in the future and start his professional path in the leading accounting and audit company in the world. At the same time, Karen risks her position and her professional reputation, in case of breaking company’s rules and regulation regarding the FMIP. This is the most crucial consequence that Karen may face if she accepts the offer. Moreover, it is a violation of human and social values which may generate an emotional distress and a sense of guilt in front of candidates who apply to this internship program.

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If Karen Does Not Accept the Offer

If Karen follows her company’s instructions by avoiding the conflict of interests, she may benefit as a good employee in terms of the personal approval as an unbound specialist. The case outlines Karen’s reaction on this offer, which was not associated with a person who would like to accept this kind of decision. In addition, not accepting the offer will create a positive impact and example to James by respecting moral issues and ethics. From the company’s perspective, it will be a professional decision expected from the valuable employee. However, Karen’s relationships with Janet may suffer from this decision and may result in unpleasant social consequences. James will be also harmed since he will not be able to get internship in the Big Four.

Karen and Janet’s Offer

Considering the ethical issues, Karen is obligated to meet company’s objectives and ethical regulations which include the absence of the conflict of interests in the professional workplace. This is a crucial reason for Karen follow ethical norms and avoid a disaster in her career in the Blackheart Inc. As a result, Consequentialism proposes to evaluate all outcomes and choose decision that is less harmful. By comparing two variants, the potential consequences from the internship swap are too risky and may harm all four people involved in this action. Karen and Janet may lose their positions, while the boys may also be excluded from the programs. To sum up, Karen should reject the offer referring to ethical, moral, and personal values and norms.

Possible Solutions

First, Michael and James could proceed with another internship opportunities which may be as good as the desired ones. This action will develop independence and responsibility for their actions and achievements without involving parental help. Second, Karen and Janet may try to recommend or ask their companies to consider their songs as candidates to the internship programs but without placing them directly in the list. This way may help to improve the situation and at the same time avoid negligence of ethics.


Shawver, T. (2014). A practitioners’ guide to the new AICPA Code of Professional Conduct. The Journal of Finance and Accountancy, 20, 1-9. Web.

Singh, A. & Mishra, N. (2018). Ethical theory & business. International Journal of Humanities and Social Development Research, 2(1), 97-113. Web.

Vveinhardt, J. & Sroka, W. (2019). Nepotism and favoritism in Polish and Lithuanian organizations: The context of organisational microclimate. Sustainability Journal, 12(1425), 1-23. Web.

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