Was firing a fair consequence in this situation?

In October 2015, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. fired about 20 new employee analysts for cheating on tests during their training period . The employees had been working with the investment bank’s securities division and included analysts from its New York and London offices. The topics on the tests were the employees’ knowledge of important industry and regulatory information, including information about compliance, gift-giving policies, and anti-money laundering policies. JPMorgan Chase had fired 10 employees a month earlier for similar violations.

Goldman Sachs is one of the most selective employers on Wall Street, and during the previous year the company hired only 3 percent of its 267,000 applicants. The firm’s CEO has called his company the employer of choice in their industry. They typically recruit the best and the brightest from some of the nation’s most elite business schools. One observer said that getting a job at Goldman was harder than being accepted into Harvard.

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Seemingly, the tests had never been received well by the new employees. The tests are seen as time consuming, repetitive and annoying and some of the test takers saw them as a waste of time and put them off until the last minute. Some observers remarked that cheating on these types of tests had been an accepted part of finance training in the industry.

How the employees got caught cheating was somewhat surprising in its lack of complexity. The employees who cheated used their Goldman-issued computers to look up terms that appeared on the exam . They took their tests on these computers and also used them to Google search for some of the answers. The company was able to trace the cheating activity on their computers. Some of the cheaters shared answers, a practice said to be a routine way to save time during the hectic workweek.

The tests they took were not seen as difficult and a person had to score a 70 to pass on the one hour test. If they failed, they would have been given another chance to take the test and they would not have been fired (at least the first time). However, they might have evoked disappointment and ire by their supervisors

A Goldman Sachs spokesperson said “this conduct was not only a clear violation of the rules, but completely inconsistent with the values we foster at the firm.”

 

1. What is your evaluation of Jenkin’s proposed approach to changing the ethics culture at Barclays? 2. Can an ethics culture change of the magnitude desired be initiated effectively by a memo ? What else is necessary and why?

3. Is a threat of discharge the best way to frame a desire for new, ethical values? How would you recommend the bank take on such its gargantuan ethics program?

 

1. If these were bright, young employees who had survived a very competitive hiring process, why do you think they risked it all by cheating?

2. Did the topics covered by the test make firing a more likely outcome? Should the test takers have seen this?

3. Was firing a fair consequence in this situation? Should the company have used some other penalty? If so, what?

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