Wednesday, 16 March 2011

A corporate fraud where the corporation is the victim

Recently, one of your commentators described the victims of 'MLM business opportunity' fraud as 'dumb'. However, I would like to remind your free-thinking readers that literally anyone can be persuaded to part with money after falling for lies; including the Chief Executive Officers of multi-national corporations. Indeed, all confidence tricksters know that the more convinced a person is that he/she cannot be fooled: the more easy it is to fool him/her. 
Last week, the share-value of the major French car-maker, Renault SA, fell by 6.3% (representing more than 500 000 000, or half a billion, Euros). At the same time, it was disclosed that one of the company's own security managers, Dominique Gevrey (a former French Intelligence agent), had been arrested by the French police at Charles de Gaulle airport as he tried to board a plane for Africa. It is now very probable that M. Gevrey, and two other Renault security managers, will soon be facing charges of organized fraud against their employers. 
In total, since this time last year, Renault shares (which are partly-owned by the French State) have fallen by more than 12%. Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer of Renault, Carlos Ghosn, has staked his company's future on developing an electric car program. However, M. Ghosn, appeared on French national television at the beginning of this week and courageously admitted that he had been the victim of a hoax in which he was led to believe (by his company's own security staff) that Renault was itself the victim of industrial espionage. As a consequence of these costly gaffs, M. Ghosn declared that he, and several other Renault executives, would return their performance bonuses for 2010. In the case of M. Ghosn, this involves him giving up 1.6 millions Euros. In total, he will still receive 9.2 millions Euros as his joint 2010 salary from Renault and its Japanese affiliate, Nissan. 
Typically, in order to commit fraud, it appears that M. Gevrey had pretended affinity with, and played on the existing fears of, his victims. He acted out an elaborate, fictional controlling-scenario as fact. In brief, M. Gevrey claimed that an undisclosed source would (in return for a cash payment in excess of 300 000 Euros) reveal the names of 3 high-level traitors at Renault who were selling technological secrets to the agents of rival Chinese manufacturers. After pretending to hand over this payment to his secret source, M. Gevrey produced the names of Michel Balthazard, Bertrand Rochette and Matthieu Tenenbaum (all Renault managers closely-involved with the electric car program). The trio were duly fired in January of 2011 and, despite their protestations of innocence, Mr Ghosn publicly claimed that his company's security staff had conclusive proof that they were all spies. The entire affair was then handed over to the French authorities for criminal investigation and the alleged spies were arrested. However, bank accounts in Switzerland and Lichtenstein which M. Gevrey claimed had been used  by the Chinese to pay the Renault traitors were quickly found not to exist. Indeed, the French public prosecutor has concluded that there is no case to answer since the entire affair rested only on the unsubstantiated testimony of M. Gevrey. 
Another former Renault manager, Phillipe Clogenson, has now come forward, complaining that he too was unjustly fired in 2009 on only the word of Renault's security staff who also accused him of accepting bribes from competitors. 
David Brear (copyright 2011)

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