This is part three of a four-part series of blog articles about the subprime mortgage problems facing the real estate industry. In part one I sketched the rise and fall of subprime loan products and their relation to predatory lending practices within a capitalist system. In part two, I examined the structural relationship between a professional and his or her client. In today’s blog article, I will compare the subprime problems with a classic business ethics case study.
The space shuttle Challenger accident has frequently been used as a case study in the study of engineering safety, the ethics of whistleblowing, communications, and group decision-making. With Challenger, an O-ring eroded on earlier shuttle launches. Morton Thiokol (MT) managers believed that because it had not previously eroded by more than 30%, that this was not a hazard. During a pre-[photopress:morning_1_2_3.gif,thumb,alignleft]launch conference call with NASA, the MT engineer most experienced with the O-rings, Roger Boisjoly, pleaded with management repeatedly to cancel or reschedule the launch. He raised concerns that the unusually cold temperatures would stiffen the O-rings, preventing a complete seal. MT senior managers overruled him and allowed the launch to proceed. Challenger’s O-rings eroded completely as predicted by Boisjoly resulting in the disintegration of Challenger and the loss of all seven astronauts. Boisjoly concluded that the caucus called by managers who decided to launch, was an unethical decision-making forum which came about because of intense customer intimidation. “Roger Boisjoly and the Challenger Disaster: The Ethical Dimensions