Spreadsheet Ethics


The estate planning division of the law office where Allen works as a paralegal uses spreadsheet software to keep track of the often complicated listing of assets and liabilities for the firm’s wealthiest clients, the Harvey family. Last Friday afternoon, Allen was the last one to leave the office. As he was getting ready to leave, the office phone rang. It was one of the Harvey sons calling. He wanted to know how much money was available in the trust his father had hired Allen’s firm to set up for the elder Mr. Harvey’s grandchildren. Allen, in a hurry to leave for the weekend, opened the spreadsheet files, saw how much money was available in the trust, and relayed that information to the caller.

On Monday morning, the elder Mr. Harvey called the firm, furious that his son had found out the amount of money available in the grandchildren’s trust.


  1. What ethical violations did Allen commit?
  2. Why were his actions unethical?
  3. How could Allen have avoided committing any ethical violations?

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