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Flight or fight: a case study in resolving ethical issues

David S. Christensen (Department of Accounting, Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah, USA)
Paul Schneider (Department of Accounting, Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah, USA)
Jeff Orton (Department of Accounting, Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah, USA)

Publication date: 20 June 2019

Issue publication date: 10 September 2019


Theoretical basis

Students apply the new Institute of Management Accounting (IMA) ethics standard to “contribute to a positive ethical culture” and advice to “actively seek to resolve an ethical issue.” By learning and practicing how to voice concerns students gain confidence in this approach to resolve ethical issues. In addition, most students are inspired by the moral courage of the chief financial officer (CFO) and report an increased resolve to have moral courage.

Research methodology

The case was based on the CFO’s published account of his experience and supplemented with an interview. It has been gradually refined in an ethics course for accounting students over several years and evaluated from a sample of students who completed the course.

Case overview/synopsis

The CFO of a mining company was pressured to pledge collateral that was already pledged on another loan. The CFO courageously refused his supervisor’s request and resigned his position immediately (flight). In its ethics guidelines, the IMA requires its members to actively seek to resolve ethical issues internally before disassociating from the organization (fight). In addition, ethics writers Gentile (2010) and Badaracco (2001) suggest ways to communicate ethical concerns. In this case, accounting students learn how to resolve ethical issues using the ethics guidelines and suggestions by analyzing and writing about the experience of the CFO.

Complexity academic level

The case is used in a graduate ethics course. It may also be used in undergraduate accounting courses.



Disclaimer. This case is written solely for educational purposes and is not intended to represent successful or unsuccessful managerial decision making. The authors may have disguised names; financial, and other recognizable information to protect confidentiality.


Christensen, D.S., Schneider, P. and Orton, J. (2019), "Flight or fight: a case study in resolving ethical issues", , Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 295-305.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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