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Stealing information

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Jackson and Jonathon were mates in university. They both joined in the same architecture firm as junior architects after graduation. Though they were close friends with similar background, they also competed with each other on almost everything. 


Lately, the company had an internal competition for making a proposal for a redevelopment project of the company’s warehouse in the suburbs. The proposal needed to consider various factors such as the increasing of labour cost, the shortage of land, the unpredictable economic trend, etc. Both Jackson and Jonathon participated in the competition and worked very hard to draw up a winning proposal. Competition between the two friends was fierce. Through personal connection, Jackson got some useful restricted information on the future development of the nearby lots from the Lands Office for his proposal. He casually saved the restricted information to his computer.  One day, Jonathon went to Jackson’s desk asking Jackson out for lunch. Jackson was not around, leaving his draft proposal displayed on the computer screen.  Jonathon took the chance to scan through Jackson’s draft proposal and discovered the restricted information.


Desperate to win the competition and to beat Jackson, Jonathon was in a crossroad. He could easily beat Jackson if he stole Jackson’s ideas and the restricted information to improve his own proposal.


What should Jonathon do? Should Jackson raise an alarm if he found out that Jonathon stole his information? After all, Jackson got the restriction information through improper means.

Case Analysis

Both Jonathan and Jackson were facing an ethical dilemma that might put their personal values such as respect, responsibility and honesty to challenge. In handling the situation, they should identify the relevant facts and take stock of all stakeholders concerned. The following factors should be taken into consideration when identifying viable alternatives and choosing the best course of action:


  1. Any violations to her professional, industry specific, or company code of conduct.
  2. Is it against the Law?
  3. Does it correspond with their self-values such as honesty?
  4. Can they disclose the decision to others openly and honestly without misgivings?


The ETHICS PLUS ethical decision making model might be helpful for them in solving the dilemma.


As far as compliance is concerned, Jackson might violate Section 4(1) of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (POBO) if he, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, offered advantages (e.g. money) to a public servant (i.e. a staff member of the Lands Office) for the public servant’s assistance in leaking the restricted information (i.e. an act in relation to the public servant’s capacity).  The staff member of the Lands Office as a public servant, who solicited or accepted the advantage for releasing the restricted information, might also violate Section 4(2) of the POBO.


On the other hand, the Code of Professional Conduct issued by the Hong Kong Institute of Architects requires members to maintain high integrity standard and refrain from dishonourable conduct and practices in the architectural profession.  Any member whose conduct is found to be in contravention of the Code or dishonouring the principle of the Code is liable to reprimand, suspension or expulsion.

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