A bad Apple and Renault ask Inspector Clouseau for help

Corruption and scandal was in the business news last week; from the sad to the ridiculous...

An Apple procurement manager who passed confidential information to suppliers pleaded guilty in court last week and could go to jail for up to 20 years (which would seem a little extreme, but the USA does like putting people away).  Here's the Telegraph report:

Paul Devine, who worked at Apple between 2005 and 2010, pleaded guilty in a California court to wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering. Prosecutors said that Devine, who was arrested last August and later bailed, will also forfeit $2.28m (£1.4m) he made from the scheme.

Devine pocketed millions of dollars by disclosing confidential information about Apple's product forecasts and pricing targets to suppliers of accessories for the iPod and the iPhone. The suppliers were not identified... Devine's scheme "enabled the suppliers and manufacturers to, among other things, negotiate more favourable contracts with Apple than they would have been able to obtain without the confidential information".

That must be one of the hardest procurement-related frauds to stop. It's not like some potential areas where strong controls and processes can make fraud or corruption virtually impossible. Senior procurement people naturally know things that may have value to others.  A quiet word in the pub could bring big rewards and it is difficult to stop.  Vigilance - and strong punishment 'pour encourager les autres' is about all you can do.

Meanwhile, doubts were cast in the case of three senior Renault executives who were fired in January. They were accused of selling technical secrets about their new electric car to unspecified other parties (rumoured to be Chinese.)

Well, it now transpires that this may all have been the invention of an over-zealous (or worse) private detective! The BBC reports the Renault COO as saying this:

"Either we are confronted with a case of espionage and a senior security executive is protecting his source despite everything. Or Renault is the victim of a manipulation, which we don't know the nature of, but which could be a fraud."

There seems  to be no concrete evidence at the moment, and no doubt the three involved, who have always denied any wrongdoing, are preparing some VERY large damages claims, having had their reputations comprehensively trashed. What do you think? 10 million? 20 million?

Voices (3)

  1. David Atkinson:

    I think that was my old manager’s point! He didn’t mention Michelle Pfieffer though. Hmmm….

  2. Peter Smith:

    I think that’s right David – but I always feel that I can’t say I am incorruptible, only that no-one has ever presented me with anything that was remotely tempting! I’d like to think I’d say ‘no’ whatever I was offered, but who can truly say? If it had been £100 million and Michelle Pfieffer (obviously this is in my pre-married bliss days) would I have been tempted?

  3. David Atkinson:

    A purchasing manager told me when I was starting out on this career that if I was ever tempted to take a kick-back from a supplier, then I’d better make sure it was so big that I wouldn’t have to work again – as he would ensure that my reputation would be completely trashed.

    So it may be no surprise to know that I have zero (that’s ZERO) sympathy with anyone caught with their fingers in the till. Lock ’em up!

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