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Dunn’s zeal to fix one mess created another

Dunn’s zeal to fix one mess created another

by Rick Turoczy on October 5, 2006

Dunn joined a rogues’ gallery of business leaders who have faced criminal charges, such as Kenneth Lay of Enron, Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom and Martha Stewart. Criminal accusations were leveled against her Wednesday by California’s attorney general just two days before she’s scheduled to start chemotherapy for advanced ovarian cancer.

Dunn’s alleged crimes are different from the usual corporate malfeasance, corporate governance experts said. She didn’t misstate business results, enrich herself with insider information or hurt shareholders. It was less “Den of Thieves” and more “Aesop’s Fables”: Her zeal to solve one ethical problem — catching a boardroom leaker — led her to cross ethical lines herself, some said, and possibly commit crimes.

“It’s important not to conflate what Patricia Dunn did here with the behavior of the Enron, WorldCom, Tyco executives,” said Kirk Hanson, executive director of the Markkula Center of Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. “There’s mortal sins and venal sins, as the Catholics say.”

Dunn’s zeal to fix one mess created another

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