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“No on Knight” Campaign
August 13, 1999
To: President, COO
Re: “No on Knight” Campaign
Thank you for requesting my consultative participation as a part of your decision making process. I hope that I am able to provide you with an outside perspective to your dilemma, and offer you as much information as possible to assist you in making your decision. The course of action, of course is ultimately your own decision.
I believe there are only two courses of action that you will consider. You can accept the leadership role in the campaign, or you can choose to provide financial and behind the scenes support of the campaign. There is a third option, to remain completely uninvolved in the campaign. I realize that that will not be considered at all. Under each choice, I have categorized much of the information as organizationally rational and personally rational information. I hope this aids you in making a decision that is best for you. I wish you the best of luck in your pursuit.
Choice 1: Taking on an active leadership role in the campaign.
As you are aware, you hold a very high profile position here with E*Trade. It is understandable why the “No on Knight” campaign has approached you for leadership and support. You have been very open in regard to your lifestyle. You have always responded honestly to individuals asking about your family. You have two children with your partner, and have made a long-term commitment to the relationship. You have never concealed your personal life, and have proudly committed yourself to your family. Obviously, you are the perfect candidate to lead this campaign. In choosing this route, there are some problems you will face.
1) How taking on such a political stance would affect your position here at E*Trade.
Managers are often placed in a position of conflicting loyalties and duties. This is one of those ethical dilemmas. This is one of those situations. By taking on a leadership position in the campaign, the public could very misinterpret your support as E*Trade’s corporate sponsorship of the campaign, thus choosing to accept the role may be construed as a conflict of interest.
E*Trade has challenged the status quo in the area of providing benefits to domestic partners. Unfortunately, the fact is that there a huge gap between our vision to be as open-minded and accommodating to our employees as possible, and how the pubic perceives our vision. Current statistics are showing that only 40% of those polled oppose the Proposition. With 53% in favor of it, the effects of having our company anywhere but neutral on the issue could be devastating.
We know we have a strong base of Generation X-ers as clients, and traditionally this group is more open-minded. Unfortunately, we have too much fierce competition and as we try to gain leverage and attract more of the Baby boomers from other firms that are joining the Web-based market, E*Trade’s support for or against the proposition could hurt our growth. Baby boomers seem to be more conservative regarding these issues. As some of the more traditional companies join this market, it would be in the best interest of E*Trade to be kept out of political arena all together.
2) How taking on this role could affect your personal obligation to your own moral and value system.
You and your family would be thrust into the spotlight. This could be a very difficult position for you, your partner, and your children. You have been a behind the scenes activist for gay and lesbian rights for years. You have chosen to remain quiet in your support. In your role as a quiet activist, you have helped implement many changes within companies, such as Schwab and E*Trade. With your leadership, several companies have been able to develop benefit plans that include domestic partners in the same light as same sex married couples. You have worked through issues in the court system to assist in changing laws to make domestic partner relationships accepted in the state of California and in your community. All of these were accomplished with your guidance.
Your efforts in these cases were not highly publicized events. You were not placed in the center of a hotly
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