2015: A snapshot
- In 2015, 298 cases were reported through the Maersk Group’s whistleblower system – none anywhere near the magnitude of the Olympus case.
- 140 were fraud-related and handled by Group Internal Audit.
- 51 were investigated as genuine whistleblower reports (excluding fraud). All were investigated following Group procedures, and if substantiated, appropriate remedial actions were taken. These included dismissal; reprimands; warnings and additional training; changes in operations, procedures and systems; and reports to regulators.
- The Maersk Group saw an increase in IT security reports, including external complaints about fake emails from Maersk or fraudulent inquiries made through social media.
“It’s a sensible and straightforward protection for employees, the board and the company.”
At a recent Maersk Group gathering of in-house lawyers, former Olympus Corp CEO Michael Woodford commended the Group’s new whistleblower system for reporting possible wrongdoing. Woodford, one of the highest-ranked executives to blow the whistle on his own company, knows the value of such a system first-hand.
When he became the leader of Japanese medical device and camera maker Olympus in 2011, he never imagined the drama that would unfold in the coming weeks.
The first Western “salaryman” to rise through the company’s ranks to become CEO, Woodford caught wind of allegations of a USD 1.7 billion accounting fraud at the company. Olympus had paid almost USD 1 billion to buy three obscure companies – a mail-order face cream company, a microwave dish company and a recycling company. In addition, close to USD 700 million was paid in “advisory fees” on a merger, to a shadow company in the Cayman Islands.
When Woodford started asking questions of the top leadership, he encountered stonewalling.
“I knew there and then that there was something rotten at the top of this corporation of 45,000 people which I was responsible for,” he says.