Speakers Discuss Corporate Ethics and Responsibility

Corporate ethics and moral responsibility were the topics of a special meeting of the Shultz Fellows on Wednesday, April 27, with noted author Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and Tyler Shultz, a whistleblower in the Theranos corporate scandal. 

More than 70 students and faculty members gathered in the Nee Room in Founders Hall for the discussion. Jeffrey, parent of sophomore Lauren Sonnenfeld, is a senior associate dean and a professor in the practice of management at Yale University’s School of Management and is the author of books and scholarly articles on corporate leadership. Mr. Shultz, grandson of the late former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz ’38, was an employee at Theranos and has been a guest speaker in Jeffrey’s seminars on corporate leadership.  

Jeffrey began the evening by answering questions on the history of corporate responsibility in the United States, and he spoke about the recent corporate response to divisive issues both political and social. It is in the best interest of corporations to understand and help to solve such issues for everyone to “have a more harmonious society” that benefits all of us, he said, paraphrasing the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville.  

Despite scandals in the corporate world, business leaders are the most respected leaders in society after the military, Jeffrey said. “Sadly, federal and state politicians, the media, clergy, and even school officials, teachers, and academics have fallen in public trust,” he commented. However, business leaders have ascended in public opinion, giving them a more significant role and responsibility in our current society, he added.  

Mr. Shultz joined the conversation via Zoom from his home in California and spoke about the importance of standing up for what you believe is right, despite obstacles you may face. 

Even though he and another whistleblower, Erika Cheung, knew they were right in stepping forward and exposing Theranos, a medical technology company, for allegedly fraudulent actions, they still thought that they would not be able to win against the company in court. 

“We did what we did to try to protect patients,” he said.  

Jeffrey earned his undergraduate, masters, and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. He has taught at Harvard, Emory University, and Yale. He has won outstanding educator awards at Yale, at Emory, and from the American Society for Training and Development, and his work is regularly cited by the general media.  

Mr. Shultz earned an undergraduate degree in biology from Stanford University and is the chief executive officer and co-founder of Flux Biosciences Inc. His work with his company was recognized in Forbes Magazine when he was named to the publication’s “30 under 30” list of 30 health care business leaders under age 30 in 2017.  

The Shultz Fellowship, a bi-partisan, student-led club inspired by Secretary Shultz's legacy of statesmanship and diplomacy, meets regularly to discuss politics and current events.  

The speakers were sponsored by the Norton Center for the Common Good.