Business Ethics in Revenge


I am a huge fan of the TV show Revenge (watch Season 1 here! ). The show focuses around the main character, Emily Thorne, whose father was blamed for laundering money to a terrorist group who created large-scale terrorist attack. Emily’s mission in life is to seek revenge on the people who framed her father and expose the real criminals—the Grayson family. Conrad Grayson is the CEO of Grayson Global, where Emily Thorne’s father also worked many years ago.

Conrad Grayson

As the show progresses, we find out that Conrad was laundering money to a terrorist group, which is responsible for the explosion of a commercial flight. Conrad chose Emily’s father to frame for this crime, and he later dies in jail (which we find out Conrad also orchestrated). After this scandal, which occurred about 15 years prior to the show’s present of 2012, Conrad Grayson is still head of Grayson Global. He was never caught for the crime he committed, and he paid many people involved to keep quiet as well. Conrad’s son Daniel is supposed to take over the family Grayson Global business. However, when Daniel finds out about Conrad’s criminal past, he threatens to expose Conrad. Conrad claims that he has always done “what is best for the family” and he argues it would not have been good for the family if he (and his co-conspirator wife) had gone to jail. He claimed that he was merely watching out for his children. Similarly to Enron executives, he was looking out to protect his own personal wealth and tried to cover up a massive business scandal.

Of course Conrad’s business actions were unethical as he was responsible for a commercial flight exploding. However, what would you do if you had a family and business to protect? Would you frame someone else or turn yourself in?

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5 thoughts on “Business Ethics in Revenge

  1. Having watched the show, I think it’s safe to say that by covering up his crime and framing Emily’s dad, Conrad opened up a whole new can of worms. I think this begs the question of personal responsibility. In many management class readings, the underlying theme is that a strong leader not only accepts responsibility for his actions but also takes the first step in any situation in order to lead by example. Conrad clearly could not have committed this entire crime by himself. There are many other constituents and factors. But as a leader, and as CEO of his corporation, he should have held himself personally accountable for the events.

  2. This was SUCH a good one! I am also OBSESSED with Revenge, I am glad you posted on it! The entire premise of the show and Grayson Global Inc. is so unethical but not all that unrealistic. The whole passing down the business through family is a very popular business practice that shouldn’t be so prominent but it is. The whole terrorism scandal is clearly unethical and the fact that it was blamed by someone else in the business is even worse. To answer your question, I don’t think we can answer that question unless we have been in a situation like such. Of course I would like to say no, I would do the ethical and responsible thing and not frame someone else to save my family but when you are put in that positions it is difficult to say how you would react. In Revenge, the unethical choice was made and so far in the series he has been paying for that unethical decision professionally and personally.

  3. I see a huge connection between the motives in Revenge and those in The Sopranos. It seems like people will do anything to protect or avenge their family. While Conrad clearly drew first blood by framing an innocent man, he and Emily both do whatever it takes to see that their family legacies are not tarnished. Ethically, I question the extent of Emily’s revenge plot. I know she feels that all her actions and manipulations are justified. However, it won’t be long before unintended collateral damage occurs, and then how will she justify it in her mind?

  4. I think Meg brings up a good point. Obviously Conrad’s lies and attempted cover up was wrong, but Emily is also acting in an unethical manner. What I find most interesting about the show in the internal struggle Emily faces. When her actions start to get out of hand, she often takes a step back and examines her choices and unethical behavior. There are numerous people that have been impacted through either Conrad’s or Emily’s choices, but who is to blame? Is the source of the conflict at fault (Conrad), or is the person who continues to harm the people around her (Emily) the one to blame?

  5. Like you and Courtney, I absolutely LOVE this show and have often thought about the multiple sides of the story! It is clear that Conrad goes to extreme lengths to hide his wrongdoings. I, personally, find it very hard to justify his actions with the “doing what is best for his family” line of reasoning. Even though the show tries to present that side of things very frequently, I do not think that it’s sufficient. Although I do believe that Conrad thought going to jail would be detrimental to his family, I do not think this is enough to say that his unethical behavior was ok. On the other hand, I do understand how being a situation like the Graysons found themselves could have caused them to look for a way out. They were desperate. Making David Clarke their scapegoat, though, seems much more unethical than I can accept — even within the confines of a TV drama.

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