Opportunity cost can be loosely defined as the cost of passing up or forgoing other choices by making a particular decision. In terms of values, opportunity cost involves participating in actions that purport one value in favor of another. When corporations engage in activities that some individuals may consider morally improper, many assume that unless these companies step over the limitations of the law, no ethical inquiries need be raised. In the realm of business, ethical boundaries are often stretched in order to obtain the all-mighty profit. Many companies put forth mission and vision statements highlighting their codes of ethics and values, which in essence, identifies their level of consciousness. However, their actions often show that their values stray from that proposed. .
Corporate and executive improprieties sometimes transcend the moral dimension and proceed to enter the domain of illegality. The most notorious example of current times is the Enron Scandal. In December of 2001, the Enron Corporation became one of the largest bankruptcies in U.S history, due to numerous charges and admissions of fraudulent practices. Not only did this bring about the downfall of the Enron Corporation alone, but the scandal also shook America's already declining stock markets. Investor confidence plummeted when the scandal hit several leading telecommunication firms. The prices of stocks for the nation's largest companies fell by more than 33 percent from 2000 to mid 2002. .
Enron had at one time enjoyed enormous success. Its stock price had risen from only $10 in 1991 to a high of $90 per share in 2000. Also, from 1998 to 2000 it reported revenues increasing from $31 billion to over $100 billion. It was positioned as the seventh largest company on the Fortune 500; its downfall however was soon to be realized. It is stunning how ruthless executives such as Jeffery Skilling and Kenneth Lay appeared to be as the laundry list of improprieties piled up to the detriment of both investors and Enron employees.