Mozilla, the makers of the popular web browser Firefox, is facing a media firestorm in protest of their
recent promotion of Debra to CEO. Debra was an internal promotion for the company, having been CTO
since 2005, but it’s Debra’s $1000 contribution to the 2008 anti-gay marriage “Proposition 8” that
sparked the controversy. Mozilla, a nonprofit organization, is heavily committed to “keeping the web
open” as well as values such as equality and inclusivity. In response to Debra’s promotion a number of
key employees and developer groups called for her resignation on Twitter and other social media sites.
Debra responded in a personal blog post that she would continue Mozilla’s effort of “commitment to
equality in everything we do.” Critics are largely unsatisfied by the response, demanding either a
retraction and apology from Debra or her resignation. Complicating matters, three of Mozilla’s six board
members resigned this week, citing their desire to hire an outsider with expertise in mobile computing.
Can a CEO have personal values that conflict with the values promoted by the organization?
2. Stretching the Principles of Revenue Recognition
Sean is CFO at a venture-backed tech startup with revenues of $20 million and approximately 80
employees. He has worked at the company for several years, and now reports to Brian, the company's
newly hired CEO.
The company had been doing really well, but recently big customers have been placing fewer orders and
Brian is feeling pressure to show growth. This pressure is amplified because the company is venture backed, and the investors expect results. While the company did well in the first round of funding, if they don't perform now, they may have trouble with gaining sufficient funding in the second round, which could mean the end of the company.
All of this was on Sean's mind when Brian came to him about recording a major order that was still under negotiation. The deal had not gone through, although both parties expected to complete the deal in the next week. With the current quarter ending in the next few days, including this order would give a
significant boost to the company's financial reports. Nonetheless, under the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), it is clear that this order does not qualify as revenue.
Even so, Brian was adamant about Seam booking the order, which could make all the difference in the
company's ability to stay afloat. Sean knew that doing so would constitute fraud; particularly because the Sarbanes Oxley Act requires the CEO and CFO to sign off on all quarterly reports. At the same time,
Sean knew that this order could make all the difference. What should Sean do?
3. Age Discrimination Safeguards
Roberto worked as a top manager at a struggling technology company in Silicon Valley. As part of a
company-wide initiative, he had the task of downsizing his department by a considerable margin. Among the most troubling decisions involved eliminating a position within his department's most productive teams: eight people for seven jobs. As he considered each team members' contributions and merits, there were two employees whose performance reviews were far behind the rest of the team.
Debra was a 38-year-old woman, an employee at the company for 12 years, and an average performer.
She worked hard and did a decent job overall, but failed to thrive at the company. She worked for a
mediocre manager and Roberto thought Debra's performance would improve if she worked for a more
competent manager. Roberto felt that Debra had more potential than John, but up until now it had not
John was a 42-year-old male with tenure and experience in the firm similar to Debra. Like Debra, he was
an average performer but was not a rising star in the organization. He did not show as much potential as
Debra. However, because John was over 40, he was considered a member of a "protected class," giving
him special protections against discrimination based on age. If Roberto fired him, he could, and most
certainly would, sue the company with a claim that he was being let go because of age discrimination.
Roberto felt that Debra was the slightly better candidate, given her potential to grow into a top
contributor. On the other hand, eliminating John's position would expose the company to a lawsuit and
the expenses associated with it, perhaps outweighing any benefit the company would gain by choosing
Debra over John. What should Roberto do?