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A classic case of corporate failure?

Staff do not always set out to do bad things, but companies should beware ethical fading

by Aditya Chakrabortty
Publication: The Guardian

July 21, 2011


Perhaps by now you've had your fill of the furious moralising and molten denunciations of Rupert Murdoch and his lieutenants. But these reactions do not really help answer the big question of what actually went wrong at News International: How a successful Sunday newspaper apparently ended up as a cottage industry of phone hacking.

A better guide to that lies in the story of the car that, in some cases, turned out to be a death-trap.

At the turn of the '70s, the top brass at Ford set out to come up with a car that weighed less than 900kg and cost less than US$2,000 (S$2,427). Their answer turned out to be the Pinto, a sporty little thing with just one problem: In rear-end collisions, its gas tank had an unfortunate habit of exploding.

That fault would eventually make the Pinto one of the most notorious cars in history but, as Mr Douglas Birsch and Mr John Fielder recount in their book, The Ford Pinto Case, no one at the time dared report it to the company's formidable CEO.

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