Welcome to Team B’s analysis of the film “Michael Clayton”.Our lead investigators are Lucy Akers, Michelle Montepara, Karla Natale and Brett Orzechowski.
We will look at a general overview of the movie accompanied by clips from the film as well as an analysis of the movie’s main characters and their ethical behaviors. Lastly we will connect the characters to our course teachings and offer some conclusions.
U-North, an agrochemical business that was aware farmers were using a carcinogenic product over two decades, is in the middle of class-action lawsuit brought forth by a small, Midwestern community. Subsequently, the product fatally poisoned hundreds. Michael Clayton’s law firm, a high-power New York group, is representing U-North. Clayton is the firm’s designated “fixer,” a job focused on cleaning client’s messes before they reach a pinnacle. He is conflicted — like many characters in the film — and faces a number of ethical challenges. Some characters choose to be evil while others deliver it. Through an intricate story and interwoven plotlines,the characters face heightening ethical dilemmas.The film is a blend of drama, corporate greed, varying degrees of moral struggles, and a plotline similar to what we see in the headlines today. A number of Johnson’s concepts from the course text can be applied to the film as the characters embody much of what the author has discussed over the span of this class.
Video: I’m a Janitor
As the film’s protagonist, Michael Clayton runs through a series of ethical issues that transcend work, friendship, business, and family, with all exposing a number of internal conflicts.Clayton, played by George Clooney, becomes his law firm’s “fixer” after a few years of litigation. The fixer serves as a “janitor,” cleaning a client’s mess before the situation gets out of control with law enforcement or other public entities receive any information detrimental to the client. He has answers for everything and is effective in non-ethical situations. Yet he is conflicted with his role at the firm. The once void of conscience, aggressive attorney wants to eventually leave the profession, coming to grips with his role as the firm’s “janitor” after 11 years. This leads to another conflict with his partners, who continue to see Clayton as a “janitor” more so than an attorney. With each case, Clayton faces an ethical dilemma and the film’s primary storyline focuses on his relationship — both professionally and personally — with Arthur Edens, the firms’ chief litigator for U-North. Edens fails to take his medication for a mental disorder and strips during a deposition in Milwaukee. He must help Arthur regain control of his life to continue defending U-North, one of the firm’s largest clients, which is part of a two-decade long class action lawsuit. The firm is in position to receive a substantial payment for defense of U-North. Essentially, he must help Arthur and put aside personal friendship for the firm’s benefit.
His troubles do not end there. Clayton also faces a number of family and personal ethical dilemmas. With one of his brothers, he opens a bar/grill, which goes under with Clayton owing $75,000 to a loan shark. In addition, he has a severe gambling problem that he is trying to curtail and must choose work or his family. He has one son and is divorced. Finally, he also is conflicted later in the film and asks another brother, a NYPD police officer, to help him break the law. Overall, Clayton’s actions throughout the film touch on four classifications of evil. With dreadful pleasure, instead of coming to grips with his inner darkness, he takes pride in being the firm’s fixer — at first. As the fixer, he exhibits evil as a deception by controlling others. In addition, his actions can be classified as evil as bureaucracy, choice, and ordinary just by carrying out his duties as the fixer.
Karen Crowder if general counsel for U-North, the agrichemical giant currently in the midst of a billion dollar lawsuit. One of U-North’s products killed hundreds of farmers and others exposed to it. U-North’s CEO and Karen are both aware of this. Karen faces many moral dilemmas throughout the film. She becomes aware of a memo signed by U-North’s CEO confirming their product is carcinogenic and actively works to suppress this information. When she discovers that U-North’s lead hired litigator (Arthur) has quite literally had an attack of conscious, she hires two men to bug Arthur’s loft and tap his phones in addition to following him. She then commits the ultimate evil act and orders Arthur’s murder, made to look like a suicide. Once Michael becomes aware of the memo and Arthur’s fight to expose U-North, she orders an unsuccessful attempt on Michael’s life. Throughout her evil acts, Karen is consumed by keeping both her image and U-North’s image pristine and keeping any anxiety behind closed doors. She compulsively rehearses her public comments in front of mirrors and does a dress rehearsal prior the large shareholders meeting. She privately panics and sweats through her shirt in a restroom after ordering Arthur’s murder. Her public image is that of a corporate drone – no personality, no emotion, keeping to the business at hand, cool and collected. Privately she seems to suffer from some insecurity or self-doubt. Karen ultimately represents evil. As we’ve read in our text, Karen fits under several evil categories. Evil as deception: she is self-absorbed and deceives both herself and others. Evil as Bureaucracy: she commits crimes and ethical violations as part of her job. Evil as Choice: she actively chooses the evil path and increases the level of evil as time goes on. She starts by hiding evidence and lying, she then ups it a level to bugging Arthur’s loft and tapping his phones, she then ups it a final time by ordering a murder.
Video: They Killed Them
Arthur, is the top attorney at the law firm and was specifically chosen for the U-North case because of his successful history. He built a reputation as an extremely competent attorney and developed his expert power which is based on the characteristics of his work ethic and successful case history. One shadow of Arthur’s leadership is his misplaced and broken loyalties. When he originally started working the case, his loyalties were to his law firm and ensuring that U-North was not held responsible for the deaths and sickness that was occurring because of one of their chemicals. This was not the ethical response to the scientific findings of the case and therefore, his loyalties were misplaced. At some point during his six year working on the case, he began to realize the magnitude of U-North’s problem and determined that they were actually at fault in this lawsuit. His next steps became unclear as he struggled with whether to continue representing U-North or work to convince others that they actually were at fault. This began his challenge of dissent, which is a typical ethical challenge of followers. As an employee of the firm, Arthur was like a follower and even thought it took him several years to realize it, once he determined that the firm shouldn’t represent U-North in the attempt to prove their innocence, he began to express disagreement. This was in smaller stages at first such as purposely forgetting to take his medicine. In a more aggressive display of dissent, he became belligerent and even contacted the daughter of some victims from the case in an attempt to expose the truth.
The Partners of the firm have an attitude that any problem can be fixed or covered up. This is evidenced by Michael’s role at the firm and also by Walter’s handling of his client’s hit and run accident. Walter’s response to the incident was to call Michael and to have him fix things by immediately meeting with the client and by finding a trial lawyer for him in the middle of the night. Walter did not even consider it a possibility that his client was wrong to leave the scene of the accident and that he should pay the consequences of his actions. The Partners were aware that the U-North case was dirty from the beginning. Despite Marty Bach’s suspicions that the case was dirty, his greed and denial led him to work the case which allowed his staff to bill over 30,000 hours working on it. He celebrated this milestone with Arthur by taking him to a brothel. This type of celebration seems inappropriate given the excessive billing and the seriousness of the case. Marty knew Arthur for 30 years. Upon Arthur’s death, while sharing a drink with Michael, Marty said that he felt they’d caught a lucky break since now his craziness problem was solved. It was inappropriate for Marty to feel this way given their history and closeness. The partners seem to have operated in an evil as ordinary fashion, perhaps with behavior somewhat typical of law firm partners. The partners failed as ethical leaders, they did not set a moral example at the firm for others to follow.
In many ways, Arthur Edens embodies the concept of moral imagination introduced by University of Virginia professor Patricia Werhane in the Johnson text (Johnson, 2012, p. 55). After six years working the U-North case as the top litigator, Edens becomes fully aware of U-North's lack of social responsibility and corporate malfeasance. Through reproductive imagination, he begins to piece together the facts and realizes he is on the wrong side of this lawsuit as a litigator. He then begins to put a face on the lawsuit and sees the pain and suffering the U-North's chemicals have on a small Midwestern town. Between the corporation's recklessness, his law firm's unethical approach, and his own sanity, Edens believes the class-action lawsuit is just and reframes the problem through a process called productive imagination.Finally, through creative imagination, he finds a new and morally sound solution in a private document that becomes the most damaging evidence to U-North's case. This document also tests Karen's morals and ethics and irrevocably changes Michael's perspective — on everything.
Video: I’m Not The Enemy
The ethical implications portrayed and insinuated in this film are many. We see Arthur’s reputation come into question after his mental breakdown. Michael’s reputation with his family suffers as they see him increasingly choose his shady profession over time with them. Karen sees the implied loss of her job as she is arrested. As the senior management of U-North is escorted away by the police, the viewer is left to assume U-North will crumble or at least undergo a significant restructuring as the result of the evil actions of management and Karen in particular. Kenner, Bach and Ledeen could also collapse as their involvement comes to light. The murder of Arthur and the attempted murder of Michael are the ultimate implications. Karen made the wrong kinds of enemies in both Arthur and Michael as Michael’s connection to the NYPD proved to be her downfall. Michael’s addiction to gambling is further fed as he allows his brother to default on a business partnership. Arthur suffers and obvious mental breakdown while Karen suffers a major panic attack. Evil leads to health problems. The continuing evil and the allowance for it to take place feeds all of the above implications.
There are various moments of clarity and conclusion for the film’s main characters. As for Arthur, he is under surveillance by a team hired by Karen. The surveillance collected reveals that Arthur is building a case against his own client, leading Karen to ask the team to kill Arthur, which they do. The death is set up to look like Arthur died of a suicide. When Michael learns from one of the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit that Arthur was having conservations with her to build a case against U-North, he begins to question Arthur’s death and how his firm came to know of Arthur's conversations with the U-North class members. This conversation with one of the plaintiffs was recorded by the same surveillance team.Karen then orders Michael’s death.The assassination attempt was botched but it was believed Clayton perished in a car fire,but Michael has a different plan.________Later, thinking that Michael and Arthur, the only two with knowledge of this, are dead, Karen proposes a new settlement agreement at a U-North meeting. However, Michael is waiting for her when she exits the conferenceand informs her that he has access to copies of the damaging documents that she thought only Arthur had, and that he knows about her role in Arthur's murder. He sets up Karen into offering him $10 million for his silence. Karen reluctantly agrees, prompting Michael to reveal the phone in his pocket that has conveyed their conversation to the police. Karen is arrested. Michael leaves the building and hails a cab.________OR!We cut the VO at “perished in a car fire, but Michael has a different plan.”Then we cut to the video.
Video: The Final Scene
Thank you for your time. NEEDS VOICEOVER TEXT
NO VOICE NEEDED. REFERENCES NEED TO BE IN APA FORMAT STYLE
662 film project final
Michael Clayton: A Film Analysis06.30.2012Quinnipiac UniversityOL662 Principled LeadershipDr. M. GoralskiLead Investigators:Lucy Akers Michelle Montepara Karla Natale Brett Orzechowski
Agenda Movie Overview Ethical Leaders Michael Clayton Karen Crowder Arthur Edens The Partners Connection to OL662 teachings Conclusions
The Film- “Michael Clayton”U-North Agrochemical business In middle of class-action lawsuit Product fatally poisoned hundreds Company was aware product contained carcinogensMichael Clayton’s law firm is representing U-North.Through an intricate story and interwoven plotlines,the characters face heightening ethical dilemmas.
Michael ClaytonAttorney at Kenner, Bach & Ledeen.Firm’s “fixer.” Film’s protagonist.Work Ethical Dilemmas Became the “fixer” after a few years of litigation Conflicted with his “fixer” role Faces an ethical dilemma with each casePrimary Ethical Dilemma Must help Arthur Edens, chief litigator for U-North Put aside personal friendship for the firm’s benefit
Michael Clayton (continued)Family/Personal Ethical Dilemmas Clayton owes $75,000 to a loan shark Has severe gambling problem Uses his leverage with brother, a NYPD officerEvil Representation Dreadful pleasure Bureaucracy Choice Ordinary
Karen CrowderChief Counsel, U-NorthWork Ethical Dilemmas Suppresses case evidence Orders successful murder of Arthur Edens Orders unsuccessful murder of Michael ClaytonKaren is consumed with appearances Compulsive, neurotic and manipulativeEvil Representation Deception Bureaucracy Choice
Arthur EdensAttorney at Kenner, Bach & Ledeen.Chief Litigator for U-North Case. Expert Power Misplaced/Broken Loyalties Change in ethics led to challenge of dissent Evil Representation Deception Bureaucracy Choice Ordinary
The PartnersKenner, Bach & Ledeen “Just Fix It” attitude Denial and greed Inappropriate responses with celebrations Evil Representation Ordinary
Moral Imagination: A Shadow of Leadership Reproductive Imagination - Aware of elements of the context Productive Imagination - Reframing the problem Creative Imagination - New and morally sound solutions
Possible Ethical Implications Loss of reputation Loss of job/position Collapse of business Loss of life Making the wrong kinds of enemies Criminal implications Feeding addictions Mental breakdowns Evil allowed to flourish
What Actually Happened Arthur – Clarity via mental illness Karen – Confronted and arrested Michael – Awakened to new lifestyle
Conclusions The film “Michael Clayton” is an excellentexample of ethical struggles in the businessenvironment. The shadows of leadership can be extremelydetrimental. It is important to understand the ethicalimplications of decisions.
ReferencesThe Internet Movie Database (IMDb). (n.d.). The Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Retrieved June 18, 2012, from http://www.imdb.com and http://www.imdb.com.libraryproxy.quinnipiac.edu/find?q=michael+clayton&s=allJohnson, C. (2012). Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership: Casting Light or Shadow, 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Michael Clayton - George vs Tilda -YouTube . (n.d.). YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. . Retrieved June 18, 2012, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G041ho8nnZUMichael Clayton - "Im not a miracle worker, Im a janitor" -YouTube . (n.d.). YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. . Retrieved June 18, 2012, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKVkHRGc-60Michael Clayton - "Im not the enemy" -YouTube . (n.d.). YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. . Retrieved June 18, 2012, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgmTAR3Rv5E&feature=relmfuMichael Clayton - "They Killed Them!" -YouTube . (n.d.). YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. . Retrieved June 18, 2012, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzhpP07Hhms&feature=relmfu