Copyright © 2018 by Barney Rosenberg
President, Ethics Line, LLC™
After a modest dinner with a foreign supplier, you are driving him to the modest hotel you booked for him. He hops out at his hotel and as he is closing the car door, he says:
‘I left something for you on the back seat.”
You’re puzzled but ignore it and continue on your way. It’s only when you arrive home that you remember what he said and you reach into the back seat and take the small package with you. Your spouse says: “What’s that?” And you say: “I don’t know.”
Then, inside, you find a plain white envelope. ‘Is that what he meant?’ you think. And then you see what turns out to be $10,000 in crisp new $100 dollar bills! inside a Victoria’s Secret shopping bag! I can’t make this stuff up!
Thinking it could not have been meant for you, you take out your mobile phone to call him. But then you pause. ‘Is he for real?’
Before you make up your mind about his intentions, you can’t help but start thinking. That’s a lot of money. It’s bribery. It’s not traceable. It’s a vacation. I’ve got to report this … the thoughts come thick and fast.
Before you ask if this is a bad TV show, let me tell you that no, this happened to one of my colleagues. And yes, it really was a Victoria’s Secret shopping bag. At 6 am the next morning, after what was probably a rather restless night, the colleague called me and asked for advice.
I had him write down the serial numbers of the bills. We returned the cash and fired the supplier, who loudly proclaimed that it was all innocent. It was meant to cover a holiday lunch for the workforce at the plant. Uh huh! Right!
It’s a great story because it’s not the kind of thing that happens to any of us every day and there was a very clear choice involved.
Cutting a corner to hit a target or greasing our way to lucrative new business might seem tempting in the short term. Offering or accepting a payment like this one is NEVER ok. A good reputation takes years or even decades to create and only moments to destroy.
You may quote me on this: Ethics is what we do when no one is looking!
Think about your company’s brushes with bribery. What can you say about them? What can you do to prevent them?