Dip in Integrity


Dip in integrity

I’m an optimistic person. The recent news about the fraud committed by the German company Volkswagen confuses me. A successful company cheats on society and her clients and brings Germany into discredit. And why? Because the Board of Directors wanted to sell more cars than Toyota. How childish is that? In the meantime the website shows that Volkswagen stands for seven moral company values: Customer focus; Top performance; Creating value; the Ability to renew; Respect; Responsibility; Sustainability. The swindle was only intended to increase the ego of top managers. The values seem to be nonsense.

Of course the Supervisory Board starts an investigation, the CEO will be fired and there will be a fine. The operating reserve of € 28 billon seems to not be sufficient to pay those fines. The measures don’t guarantee that corruption and scams are removed from the world. The longing of top management to be the ‘greatest’ in the world may also be heard in other boardrooms. It’s the culture of our captains of industry.

Volkswagen is consistent with the row of well performing companies like Ahold, ABN-AMRO, Siemens and Imtech who take irresponsible risks and burden society with serious collateral damage. Despite the nice websites, corporate values, motivated employees and a well-organised compliance department that monitors whether the company acts in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.

People who are committing fraud or permit others to swindle go unpunished. The company arranges the issue with the prosecutor and writes down the fine on companies’ costs. Let bygones be bygones and let’s continue. Top managers and the board get away scot-free nor need to fear jail sentences.

Individual prosecution

People have personal responsibility for their deeds. Precisely when this leads to extensive social damage. The prosecutor has to bring the responsible CEOs and top managers to trial. In the USA new policy has been published in the so-called Yates Memo. Arrangements between prosecutor and company no longer apply as substitution for cases against individuals. Imprisonment and fines for responsible individuals will be possible.

The Netherlands, UK and EU could translate the scare about Volkswagen in new legislation. Serious sentencing will have a preventive outcome if people who are guilty are really being send to jail. It seems the only option to hold top managers and the supervisory boards in check.

Optimism is sustainable when justice is applied.

Henk Bruning