Ethics case study guidelines 

The guidance below is intended merely by way of assistance. It is not designed to limit or define your drafting. If you already have a scenario in mind, feel free to write it out before reading on (the notes below may then help you work up and finalise your piece). 

Throughout our careers we have to make decisions, large and small, every day. Faced with competing pressures, it is often difficult for us to recognise the larger ethical considerations underlying our day-to-day decisions.

Potentially unethical behaviour is often the result not of a single, conscious decision, but rather the accumulated outcome of many smaller activities – activities which taken individually may seem reasonable.

By exploring such activities through ethical case studies we hope to educate fellow members to recognise potentially unethical behaviours as they develop. We hope to provide guidance not just on how to act, but also when to act. 


Case studies should be divided into two sections:

Scenario   Discussion
Setting out the facts (clearly and succinctly)  Drawing out the ethical concerns raised
 The scenario should set out briefly the background to the case. This should include information on the actors involved, their experience and seniority, and whether they were acting on their own behalf, or on behalf of their firm or their clients  The discussion section should set out the ethical questions raised by the fact-pattern and principles relevant to an appropriate resolution. 
 Scenarios should include a timeline of events with an emphasis on key “decision points”, i.e. when the potentially unethical behaviour took place, any opportunities to mitigate behaviour that were not taken and how events ultimately came to light.  Entrants should focus attention on any ambiguities in the case and encourage readers to consider differing points of view.
 Set out the consequences of the activity on the individual, their employer, affected counterparties and the markets.  Consideration should be given to how the individuals concerned could have acted differently and what lessons may be learned.

Considerations for Case Studies
In preparing your case study try to put yourself in the shoes of others. You should also consider determining details to include in the scenario section and points worthy of discussion. Consider the perspective of:

The Individual
What motivations led to the behaviour? Was in the individual motivated by personal incentives, and how may they have convinced themselves that they were doing the right thing?
When the issue was identified, did the individual consider their behaviour to be inappropriate?
Was the incident based on a one-off mistake or was it part of a wider pattern of behaviour?

What signs were there that the individual was engaging in (possibly) unethical behaviour? Were others aware that something may be wrong? What ultimately led colleagues to escalate the concerns, and what could have prompted them to do so sooner?
What approaches did colleagues take, and how did these relate to their roles (e.g. how did managers act compared to colleagues remote from the individual, such as those in a compliance or control function)?

The Firm
What potential control deficiencies did the behaviour highlight?
Were there wider cultural issues that may have led the individual to engage in potentially unethical behaviour (either knowingly or unknowingly)?
Was any role played by “group think” and “accepted practice” within the firm?

Clients and Counterparties
What was the impact of the behaviour on clients and other counterparties, such as markets, regulators and shareholders?
When the behaviour was identified, how did their perception differ from those within the firm? What led to this difference?

Society at Large
What is the social or public interest in this case?
How is this interest best protected?

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