Southern California Edison is struggling to combat an atmosphere in which employees are reluctant to report wrongdoing by co-workers because they fear retaliation, according to an employee focus group study conducted by the Ethics Leadership Group. The consulting firm conducted interviews with hundreds of Edison employees last spring and found that 37 percent of them fear they will face retaliation if they report unethical behavior. Only 52 percent knew the utility had an anonymous ethics hotline they could use to report wrongdoing. After reviewing the study, Edison executives fear that ethics may have suffered during the energy crisis, when the future of the company was in doubt as it brushed with potential bankruptcy. "When your focus is survival, that takes precedence over everything," said Gil Alexander, Edison spokesperson. However, he said that, particularly when you are a regulated monopoly, "you absolutely must be a company of its word." To reinforce the importance of reporting and correcting any unethical behavior, the utility sent the report to every one of its employees, both by e-mail and via the Postal Service to their homes, Alexander said. In a cover letter to employees, John Bryson, Edison International chief executive officer, wrote that the study's findings were "eye-opening and disturbing" to top corporate executives. Alexander said that the study-first reported in the Orange County Register-was one of a series of steps Edison is taking after finding last year that its employees doctored customer satisfaction surveys to qualify for monetary payments by the California Public Utilities Commission for providing good customer service. The payments may have totaled $48 million (<i>Circuit<\/i>, July 2, 2004). Alexander said that Edison hired Kenneth Stewart to fill the new position of chief ethics and compliance officer. He has put together a team of people that is working to train employees on the importance of ethics and improve channels for reporting and correcting unethical behavior within the company. Last May, the company's top 150 executives took ethics training, and this fall, 1,500 of its managers will undergo similar training, said Alexander. That training emphasizes both the need for ethical behavior and the importance of managers creating an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable reporting improper behavior without fear of retribution. In 2006, the remaining 15,000 employees will undergo ethics training. "We are engaged in a major, long-term effort to renew the commitment of every Edison employee to the company's core values of integrity, excellence, and respect," the utility said in a statement.