JSOM Pair Scores First Place in National Ethics Competition

Whoosh from Tucson

Back in Tucson for their second Eller Collegiate Ethic Competition, first-place winners Katherine Huston and Lewis Warne do a celebratory Whoosh.

Practice made perfect for Naveen Jindal School of Management seniors Katherine Huston and Lewis Warne, who came in first this year at the 12th annual Collegiate Ethics Case Competition at the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona. The pair placed ahead of teams from 27 other universities, including Yale University, Emory University, the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill and The University of Texas at Austin.

Rounding out the top four winning spots were Indiana University, Stetson University in Florida and University of Alberta in Canada.

Jindal School accounting faculty member Amy Troutman, the team’s advisor, said Huston, an accounting major in the Professional Program in Accounting, and Warne, a finance and managerial economics major, were hungry for a win after placing in the top 10 in 2013. To help them prepare, she had them present their case several times to a total of 10 JSOM accounting professors, before traveling to Tucson.

The case this year was whether a U.S.-based company should “invert” — a topic much in the news as American corporations consider becoming a subsidiary of, or merging with, a foreign company, typically to enjoy tax advantages.

“The best information we learned from last year was to never forget this: It is the Eller Ethics competition,” Huston said, emphasizing the word ethics. “Last year…some of the judges felt we spent too much time on the financials. This year, we made sure to visit ethical issues on every slide of our presentation.”

Both students said the lessons they learned preparing for the competition will be of value in their professional lives. “We must consider all who will be impacted by a decision, not just the shareholders,” Warne saids. “I also learned that…doing what is best for all stakeholders can be the best decision for company financials in the long run.”

Huston honed a new skill, she said, born of the case topic. “When Lewis and I decided to argue in favor of inversion, we knew we could face strong dissenters. We needed to counter beliefs that inversions are unpatriotic or unfair, without alienating the judges who held these beliefs. Lewis and I decided…we needed to eliminate negative and combative language from our presentation.

“As we developed our presentation, I became much better at identifying and modifying my word choice. For me, this is a…very useful form of self-awareness,” she said.