McDonalds’ Steve Easterbrook is just the latest chief executive who allegedly failed to recognize the importance of ethics and permanently damaged their reputation. Here are the lessons companies can learn from each of them.
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McDonald’s ousted former CEO Steve Easterbrook in November of last year for violating company policy by engaging in an intimate relationship with an employee. The board accused Easterbrook of demonstrating “poor judgment” at the time, but as it turns out, there was a lot more to the story. Based on an anonymous tip the board received in July, McDonald’s is now alleging that Easterbrook not only had numerous relationships with employees but lied about them, destroyed evidence and potentially committed fraud. As a result, the company is now suing its former CEO for $42 million in pay and benefits – the amount it had originally agreed to pay him in the form of a severance package.
Based on the actions Easterbrook allegedly took to conceal his past relationships, he clearly understood that they could get him in hot water. The moral of this particular story, then, isn’t too deep: If it’s something you need to cover up, just don’t do it in the first place, i.e. recognize the importance of ethics. But Easterbrook is far from the first to tumble off the top of the corporate ladder. Here are 11 others, along with what we can learn from their rapid descent.