In 2015, Stephanie Clifford, in her essay “Construction Company Admissions to Defraud New York Customers,” explained how the Hunter Roberts Construction Group defrauded its clients by overbilling for a total of eight years, from 2006 to 2013. The corporation did this by providing misleading statements on the hours spent on the foremen timesheet. Often building contractors do this in order to inspire the supervisors to remain loyal to the project by paying them more money, albeit from their budget. In this scenario, the customers ended up paying for the time where the workers did not do any job. Hunter Roberts also lied about their personnel showing up to work; they would report that the workers turned up on a particular day even when they didn’t.
The company, in their defense, argued that these fraudulent activities were not authorized by the management but were the initiatives of some of their employees. They added that they had fired these employees and instituted mechanisms to prevent such incidences from happening again. As restitution for their unethical conduct, Hunter Roberts paid $7 million in fines to the victims and the government in an agreement to avoid prosecution.
Hunter Roberts did not follow the standard ethical practices demanded in the construction industry during this period in question. First, the company did not exercise integrity which is a standard procedure for any business. They lied about their extra working hours and went ahead to charge their clients knowing fully well that it was not the right thing to do. The employees took advantage of the ignorance of the clients and used it for their benefit. They knew that there was no way the client would know the specific number of hours worked, so they chose to cash in on it.
Hunter Roberts disregarded the trust their clients placed in them and went behind their backs to fleece them. Acting in integrity demands that an individual is honest in all their dealings; something the company failed to put in practice. The right thing to do would be accurately reporting on the hours worked and charging the clients based on this. Being that foremen’s pay is common in the construction industry, the other option would be paying the supervisors from the company’s budget and not involving the unsuspecting clients.
The construction company engaged in deceitful practices which go against the ethical code. The unethical employees chose to add negligible hours to the time sheet which easily go unnoticed. This act can be equated to pilfering money from a cash box; it doesn’t seem much when someone does it, but over time the impact is felt. The clients didn’t know they were being robbed in broad daylight until the company admitted to the fraud. It is hard to believe that the management didn’t know this was happening until the government found out. The mere fact that the people in charge did not confront the culprits means that they were either in support or just ignored it because they got to save money.
The Hunter Roberts employees failed to demonstrate personal ethics in this matter. They lacked a moral compass that is meant to give them a sense of right and wrong. Ethical behavior starts from the individual and is cemented by a company’s code of ethics. If a person lacks personal guiding principles, they are more likely to act unethically even where the organization dictates otherwise. Construction companies’ employees are supposed to treat their clients with respect, just as they would like others to treat them. This did not happen in the case of Hunter Roberts.
From this example, we can conclude that construction companies need to be aware of the activities of their employees. They should also make their code of ethics clear and appeal to their employees to adhere to them so that the company carries out its operations ethically at all times.
Clifford, S. (2015, May 20). Construction Company Admits to Defrauding New York Clients. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/21/nyregion/construction-company-admits-to-defrauding-new-york-clients.html?_r=2