The vice-president (hereafter referred to as Person A) of an international sporting body based in the European Union (Company A) and president of a national body (Company B) was forced to suspend himself from his positions after being found guilty of four counts ofcorruption.
A newspaper investigation led to the accusations becoming public and the resulting investigation and court case added to a multitude of negative publicity for both Company A and Company B. This was particularly damaging for Company A as it came just months before it was due to host a major tournament in the country in which Person A was prosecuted.
Had a report been investigated in-house in the first instance, the companies could have managed the coverage and had their chance to be shown to be tackling misconduct proactively, rather than acting reactively as was the case.
This article explores the background to the case, the outcomes of the affair and what should have happened to prevent misconduct from occurring.
Person A was a well-respected figure in the sport overseen by Company A, helping him achieve leading roles in both that international body and his own national sporting body, Company B.
However, both roles were called into question when a newspaper investigation accused him of using his positions to commit influence peddling and illegally acquire assets. One of the accusations levelled against Person A was that he had colluded with a friend (Person B) in order to secure sponsorship deals worth more than €1.5 million from Person B’s business.
The deal came soon after Person A had received payments from Person B’s business for activities related to appearances Person A made at conferences. It was also suggested that Person A had pressured Company B’s appeals committee to be lenient when ruling against Person B in a disciplinary action.
Following the revelations in a newspaper, a member of the appeals committee publicly admitted the coersion had taken place and resigned as a result.
What happened next?
Authorities investigated Person A and Person B as a result of revelations in the newspaper. The case went to court in Person A’s home country, where he was found guilty on four of the five fraud charges. He received a two-year suspended prison sentence, along with a sanction of €75,000. Person A was also banned from being involved with the sport in question for two years.
He suspended himself as vice president of Company A and president of Company B, stating that he would appeal. However, he resigned from his role with Company B soon afterwards.
Person B received an 18-month suspended sentence and €50,000 fine for his role in the events.
What can we learn from the case?
The EU Whistleblowing Directive requires businesses to encourage employees to report misconduct internally in the first instance. This is preferable for companies, as they have the chance to stop the misconduct and put in place remedial measures, showing how seriously they take compliance. If a report is made public straight away, it can show the company in a bad light, suggesting leaders didn’t know what was happening or, worse, that they did nothing to stop it.
It is not known how the story leaked to the newspaper, but it seems like both Company A and Company B failed to discover or investigate the issues. Had there been an entrenchedspeak-up culture, this could have been avoided. The matter could have been resolved early in-house, rather than being allowed to leak out to the press over time and turning it into a public scandal.
A leadership figure – Person A – was allowed to continue exerting undue influence over financial decisions, enabling personal friendships and payments to override the proper procurement process.
With a robustwhistleblower reporting channelin place, the company could have made it easier for an individual to voice their concerns internally over the actions of Person A. This would have allowed both companies to investigate and take action with haste, containing the fallout.
In reality, the misconduct was allowed to continue, and eventually, the public fallout affected both bodies negatively.
How IntegrityLog helps
IntegrityLog is an online channel that allows for easy, confidential reporting of misconduct. It is GDPR-compliant and allows businesses to adhere to the whistleblowing laws within their country, based on theEU Whistleblowing Directive.
It also provides an easy-to-use dashboard for your investigating team so they can track the progress of cases and meet the necessary deadlines.Request a demo of IntegrityLogtoday to find out how you can reduce misconduct within your business.