If you’ve never seen the show Curb Your Enthusiasm before, you are missing out. This show stars Larry David, creator of Seinfeld, who plays himself in the most ridiculous situations. Larry always seems to find himself in some sort of predicament and attempts to talk his way out of it. I chose what I think is one of the funniest episodes out of all of the nine seasons, “The Weatherman” to talk about for the blog; Some issues that pop up are Larry’s plaque, the idea of rolling up a sleeve and ruining the elasticity of a shirt, and peeing sitting down and falling in the toilet (this is why he walks with a cane in the video clip). Of all the episodes, one of the most ridiculous theories he comes up with is that the weatherman predicts rain to get everyone off the golf course, in order to clear it for himself. You can watch a short clip of the episode here:
The issue at hand is that Larry and his friend Jeff planned on going golfing, but Jeff cancels because of the weatherman’s report about thunderstorms. When Larry wakes up he sees that it is actually a beautiful day outside, and concludes that the weatherman predicted rain on purpose. Larry goes to the golf course and finds the weatherman playing golf, where Larry claims, “There is a jet stream of bullshit coming out of your mouth!”
While I realize that this is a very particular scenario in a comedic TV show, I think the general issue can be related to our class. This is a question of whether the weatherman’s report was honest, or if he deceived the public by giving a false report in order to gain something for himself. Is it ethical either way? I believe this raises the issue the rarity of honest business practices today.
It is clear in the cases we read that many of the decisions made by the top executives were made for personal gain, instead of for the company as a whole. Just as the weatherman “falsely” predicts rain, so might top business executives produce false reports about their company in order to appear more stable to investors. Let’s take a look at Enron. By misrepresenting earnings and continuing to enjoy the revenue from investors who were unaware of the financial instability of the company, executives at Enron embezzled funds while reporting fraudulent earnings to the investors. From these actions, more investments came in from current stockholders, and new investors became interested because of the apparent financial gains.
Bringing it back to the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode, the “jet stream of bullshit” in the Enron case was the fraudulent reporting. Not only did the reports hurt the investors, but they hurt the immediate shareholders and stakeholders. We have learned that perhaps stakeholders are not the main focus of executive’s decisions today, but this should be emphasized. Enron’s unethical actions affected the entire financial sector because of how many companies worked with them and had invested in them. As a class we decided that the bailout was essentially necessary, because the effects of letting Enron collapse would lead to an even worse situation for all the other financial companies.
Just as Enron’s actions had a huge impact on the public, the weatherman’s report affected the glorious day of golfing that Larry had in mind. While this is just one person, it still brings to light the problem of many businesses. Onto my next question, what if the weatherman honestly believed it was going to rain…is this still unethical?
If we look at this from a business perspective, the Nike case showed that there was a question of whether or not U.S. executives knew about the poor working conditions abroad. At the beginning of the scandal they tried to brush off the issues and denied them. But what if they truly thought these were false accusations? I believe that it was still unethical because they should have taken the time to learn about the issues abroad before responding with denial and trying to hide the problem from the public.
Back to Curb, I think the weatherman did know it was going to be a nice day because of how he addressed Larry about it at the golf course. But this is just a comedy. In real life, I think it would be unethical to knowingly announce something you knew was not true, but it would be ethical if you truly believed in it.
Should we be more cautious about what we believe to be true from companies? It is clear that deceit is common in business practices. Should we trust them? Should we trust news reporters?
As Larry says, “I don’t trust that weatherman!”.