When the whistle blows

The Maersk Group’s strong stand to address wrongdoings is echoed in its anonymous whistleblower system, through which employees can report violations of law or internal Group rules. Now, Group Legal is making it even easier for reporters to file a report.

“Former senior Maersk employee arrested for ­million-dollar fraud”.

This was the news headline that hit the Danish media earlier this year. The media item referred to a case from 2014 in which suspicions had arisen that a senior ­Maersk employee may have colluded with an external vendor in stealing approximately USD 4.6 million from the company over a period of three years.

Thanks to the internal whistleblower system, Maersk had become aware of the case, allowing the company to take proper action, which lead to the dismissal of the employee and ensured that the relevant authorities were properly assisted in their ongoing investigations.

This case serves as a prime example of how whistleblowing can uncover potential wrongdoings. It also emphasises the importance of making employees aware of the system, so that cases can be detected as early as possible. To build on the system’s success Group Legal is currently working towards making it even easier for reporters to file a report, and for investigations to be handled more efficiently.

The importance of full anonymity

“Violations of regulations and internal rules are best dealt with by reporting them directly through one’s direct manager or legal department. However, the whistleblower system is there for employees who feel that they can’t speak up”, says Christian Kledal, Group General Counsel and Head of Group Legal.


Maersk’s whistleblower system affords anonymity to any employee who wishes to report a case – be it one of fraud, corruption, discrimination or harassment:

“Ensuring that employees feel certain that they can safely report any wrongdoing is important to the ­Maersk Group and is an integral aspect of our company values. Issues such as corruption, violation of competition law or foreign trade controls can have massive financial and reputational impact on our business. Reporting wrongdoings enables the Group to investigate and address any alleged violations properly and catch issues early”, Kledal says.

Fraud-related reports are the most common

Of the categories of reports made to the Group’s whistleblower system, fraud is one of the most common.

“Of the more than 300 cases reported in 2014, over half were fraud-related. In response, we established a dedicated team to fight this”, explains Charl Pienaar, Senior Manager at the Fraud Risk Services team that was established last year in Group Internal Audit.

Whether it is seen through a legal, values or financial lens, fighting fraud makes sense. According to a survey carried out by the Certified Fraud Examiners, the world’s largest anti-fraud organisation, the estimated level of loss from fraud on the part of multi-national companies is about 5% of their annual turnover.

Violations of regulations and internal rules are best dealt with by reporting them directly through one’sdirect manager or legal department.



Detecting the red flags

Business units take different measures to ensure everyone complies with internal group rules. For example, Maersk Oil has made it mandatory for all employees and core contractors to complete a Maersk Fraud Awareness e-learning course.

What is fraud, why does it happen and where are the red flags? These are some of the central questions that Maersk Oil employees and core contractors get an answer to during a newly developed one-hour e-learning course, which was developed as part of the fight against fraud.

Chief Financial Officer at Maersk Oil, Graham Talbot, says:

“Strong proactive controls are the responsibility of everyone in the organisation and each of us must be able to demonstrate an awareness of our company rules, as they are designed to protect us, so that we can raise our own game in preventing fraud and corruption – before they become a problem”.

Viestarts Rutenbergs, Head of Global Compliance in Finance and Business Services at Maersk Oil, adds:

“In 2014, the majority of fraud cases were detected by tip-offs from personnel or simply by chance. Fraud is not just the multi-million dollar boardroom news-headline event – it also happens on a smaller scale if, for example, an employee agrees to kick-back side agreements with vendors or submits false receipts for reimbursement or if company fuel or tools are taken and used for personal purposes. Regardless of the amount, it is always unacceptable and can lead to disciplinary action”.