You are working as an executive in a nationalised bank for several years. One day one of your close colleagues tells you that her father is suffering from heart disease and needs surgery to service. She also tells you that she has no insurance and the operation will cost about Rs 10 lakh. You are also aware of the fact that her husband and that she is from a lower middle class family. You are empathetic about her situation. However, apart from expressing your sympathy, you do not have the resources to fund her. A few weeks later, you ask her about the well-being of her father and she informs you about his successful surgery and that he is recovering. She then confides in you that the bank manager was kind enough to facilitate the release of 10 lakhs from a dormant account of someone to pay for the operation with a promise that it should be confidential and be repaid at the earliest. She has already started paying it back and will continue to do so until it is all returned. (a) What are the ethical issues involved? (b) Evaluate the behavior of the bank manager from an ethical point of view. (c) How would you react to the situation?

(a) Ethical Issues Involved:

  1. Misappropriation of Funds: Using money from a dormant account without proper authorization or consent can be considered stealing or embezzlement, even if there’s an intention to repay.
  2. Breach of Confidentiality: Banking institutions have strict confidentiality norms, and using dormant accounts without due process is a breach of that trust.
  3. Conflict of Interest: The manager acted based on personal sympathies rather than adhering to the professional standards of the job.
  4. Repayment Assurance: While the colleague has every intention to repay the amount, unforeseen circumstances in the future might make it difficult or impossible for her to do so, leading to potential financial loss for the bank.
  5. Setting a Precedent: Such actions might set an unsavory precedent where others might expect or demand similar assistance in times of personal emergencies.

(b) Evaluate the Behavior of the Bank Manager from an Ethical Point of View:

  1. Positive Intent: The bank manager was genuinely trying to help an employee in dire need, which speaks to human compassion and the desire to assist others in tough times.
  2. Misjudgment: Ethically, the manager erred in misappropriating funds. There are processes in place for such situations, such as loans, financial aid, or accessing one’s provident funds.
  3. Transparency Issues: By keeping it a secret, the manager wasn’t transparent with the institution he represents. This could erode trust within the organization if discovered.
  4. Breach of Professional Duty: As a representative of the bank, the manager has a duty to maintain the trust of account holders. By accessing a dormant account, they compromised that trust.

(c) How would you react to the situation?

  1. Empathy: First, it’s essential to empathize with the colleague’s situation, understanding her desperation and the reasons behind her decisions.
  2. Counsel: Privately, I would advise the colleague that while her situation was dire, the method employed was not appropriate. She should consider seeking proper channels to rectify the situation or speak to higher authorities about potential solutions.
  3. Discuss with the Manager: It would be important to approach the manager and discuss the ethical implications of the decision made. The manager should be made aware of the potential risks and consequences.
  4. Seek Institutional Solutions: Encourage the bank to have mechanisms in place for emergencies like this, such as low-interest loans for employees or partnerships with NGOs and welfare organizations.
  5. Whistleblowing: If the situation isn’t addressed internally, it may be necessary to consider whistleblowing if one believes it’s in the best interest of the bank, its customers, and its employees. This decision, however, should be made with careful consideration of all potential consequences.

In all actions, maintaining the dignity and respect of all involved is paramount.

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