With so many recent scandals at senior executive levels, often resulting in dismissals and resignations, more companies are becoming proactive in checking the backgrounds of their executive ranks.
The issues range from fraud and embezzlement involving governments, sometimes implicating national and international law firms and auditors, to more than three dozen senior executives accused of sexual misconduct in one year alone (2018).
Egregious examples of recent corporate scandals such as 1MDB involving $4.2bn embezzlement from a state-owned Malaysian investment fund. The ensuing investigations implicated Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak, three former Goldman Sachs Executives (Jho Low, Roger Ng and Tim Leissner), and lawfirms Sherman & Stelling, Sullivan and Cromwell. Another case known as Operation Car Wash which resulted in the impeachment of the former Brazilian President and money laundering conviction of her predecessor. The Panama Papers, Paradise Papers and Operation Car Wash are additional cases that resulted in federal and in some cases global prosecutions for bribery, money laundering, and embezzlement on a massive scale, in addition to other crimes, some of which are ongoing. These are just a few of the headline news cases in recent years.
Then there was the #MeToo movement which focused on sexual misconduct, sexual harassment and rape. Dozens of senior executives, university professors, Hollywood producers, directors, actors, comedians and photographers such as Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore, Bob Packwood, Junot Diaz, and Matt Lauer were publically shamed and lost their careers, including in many cases lucrative sponsorships and endorsements in addition to their reputations. The examples seem endless and far too numerous to list here.
The impacts to an organization under such public and legal scrutiny are obvious: company reputation is damaged, loss of business and client confidence (often on a global stage), loss of revenue, distraction for the board and executive teams, loss of productivity and employee morale, dismissal of the executive plus the need to replace them, and the list goes on. The damage is often in the millions to tens of millions of dollars and sometimes even higher.
Unfortunately many companies turn to routine background checks and believe that these very limited backgrounds will reveal the issues of concern. A simple background check will not reveal many of the issues of concern at the executive level. Best practices in business due diligence should always include a comprehensive review of all senior executives.
Infortal’s statistics show that 20% of executives do not pass a deep-level due diligence check.
The purpose of investigative due diligence is to ascertain whether executives being hired (or acquired) have provided the company with full disclosure of their background and prior substantive issues.
This is necessary to protect a company’s Board of Directors, improve risk management, comply with federal regulations, and optimize corporate profitability. Effective due diligence will reveal issues such as corruption and money laundering or inappropriate political influence that may violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act FCPA.
All too often, companies rely on what they know about an Executive who has “worked in their industry for many years” and is generally well known for their business acumen and experience. However, what companies do not know is whether that person has an unknown or undisclosed history: bankruptcies, sexual harassment claims, civil litigation/ litigious history, SEC violations, & even criminal convictions may not be known to colleagues in the industry.
Infortal Worldwide strongly recommends a Best Practices approach when conducting Executive Due Diligence. Following multiple public company accounting scandals, the federal government introduced the Sarbanes Oxley Act in 2002. All public companies today are required to submit an annualized assessment of the effectiveness of their financial accounting & internal auditing systems.