The order was for 200 brake assemblies for the new Air Force light attack plane, the A7D. Ten years ago Goodrich had built a brake for LTV that did not met expectations and caused Goodrich to be written off from the supplier’s list. After 10 years, Goodrich attempted a comeback by making an offer that could not be refused – a ridiculously low bid for making the disc brakes. Since the aircraft brakes are to be custom made, only the manufacturers could provide replacement parts. Thus even if it took a loss on the job, Goodrich was counting on the replacement parts for the profits. Of course, if Goodrich bundled the deal, it would not get a third chance!
John Warren, a seven-year old veteran engineer was made the project engineer. Lawson, a young engineer who qualified one year earlier and has been with Goodrich for the last six months, was assigned to produce the final production design. He was given the full mandate to use the best material and for the product to be tested extensively. The brakes disintegrated on the first test run. Lawson thought that it was due to the unsuitable lining. However after two more test, he found that it was possibly due to the design by Warren. Lawson thought that instead of the four disk design, a larger five disc design brake was needed.
The replacement design was not possible due to the schedule for delivery. Lawson brought the issue to Warren’s attention but Warren was too adamant to acknowledge the design to be the cause of the default and put it to the lining. Lawson went to Robert Sink, the head but Sink was in a tight spot. If Sink agreed with Lawson, it would look bad on him since he was the one who assigned Warren to the project and has accepted the design without reservation. He left the issue with Warren. Lawson was instructed to proceed with the tests. A new brake with a different lining was made and tested 13 times with all failures. It was at this point that Kermit Vandivier entered the picture. Vandivier was looking at the data of the latest A7D test when he noticed irregularities. The calibrations were intentionally manipulated with the instructions from Lawson, who said that he was only following instructions from Warren and Sink.
A month later the test was repeated and again failed. Lawson asked Vandivier to start preparing the various graph and chart displays. The technician involved refused to be involved in the conspiracy and approached the Service Manager but return beaten. He said to Vandivier that he had only two choices – either to defy his boss or do the bidding. Eventually, the deal went through, with the four disc pad and the qualification report from Vandivier. The test proved disastrous. Lawson, who was sent to the Air Force base, returned to the Troy plant .
Vandivier approached his counsel but was advised that he too was guilty of fraud. Goodrich announced that the qualification report was recalled and the brakes replaced with the five disc design. Vandivier resigned giving the A7D as the reason. The case was investigated with Vandivier and the technician as the government witness. The case prolonged and there was no conclusion. Soon after,the A7D went into service with the Goodrich made five disc brake. Sink was promoted to a higher position. Warren too was promoted to be the superindent. Lawson went to work as the engineer and was assigned the A7D project.
1. Identify the main characters in this case and explain what happened.
2. To what extent did Lawson, Vandivier and the technician considered the relevant ethical issues before deciding to join in the fraud? What was their reasoning? What would you do if you were in their situation?
3. How did Sink and Warren looked at the matter? How would you evaluate their conduct?
4. Do you think that Vandivier was wrong to work up the qualification report?
5. Was Vandivier right to blow the whistle?
6. Should Goodrich be held ethically responsible as a company for the A7D affair?