Management and Consulting Services

Whistleblower is NOT a four-letter word

6/15/2011

6351135In my career thus far, I have uncovered and/or reported fraudulent activities at least ten times.  In some of my presentations, I remark to student audiences at major universities, “If I can find fraud this many times, I can guarantee YOU will face such incidents, perhaps many more times.”

In my first instance, I uncovered (as a rookie auditor) that maintenance costs were being incorrectly capitalized at a Florida public utility.  In one of the most recent incidents, the COO of a wireless entity detected and properly reported highly inappropriate sales activities to me, actions proven to be in direct violation of an operative Federal court order.  The first incident was determined to be the result of errors and miscoding, simply requiring the installation of verification procedures.  The last instance resulted in a $2.5 million fine imposed and publicly disclosed by the United States Department of Justice.

You’ve heard that old saying, “shoot the messenger”?

Believe me, in times when fraud is uncovered, things get ugly, and it is clearly a risk (to the communicator) because bad news is not well-received.  However, by the time someone reaches the stage when fraud incidents have to be presented, you MUST have your act together, with documentation prepared, confirmed, summarized, and “crisply communicated.”

Quite frankly, the mental transition from “documenting” something to “preparing testimony,” probably occurred far prior to the act of communicating the fraud incident to management.  Nevertheless, this is the time that separates the “guts from the gore,” the upstanding and skeptical people who did the hard work of uncovering the fraud along with those management people who listened to the news and acted in a leadership way (“guts”), vs. the individuals who simply chose to trash everybody even geographically close to the incident (“gore”).

These ARE trying times.  However, you also uncover: who possesses the facts; who can maturely deal with the news; who takes the “high road”; who leads and acts in taking the (right) action…and who doesn’t.

As a matter of fact, in such difficult times, you learn very much about people…and about yourself.

So tell me this: what will you likely do, when faced with communicating or dealing with such events, facts, and circumstances?  Because…like I tell those college students…it’s going to happen!