When Reality Bites
A Betrayal of Trust
Recently I picked up the newspaper and an article’s bold headline “Nuns Embezzled From School For Vegas Trips“ caught my attention. A true example of when reality bites. The article told of two nuns who worked for decades at a Catholic school in California being accused of embezzling a substantial amount of money from tuition and other funds and used those monies to pay for gambling trips to Las Vegas. According to the media relations director of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the embezzlement, with estimates as high as $500,000, may have gone on for as long as ten years.
The following morning, I noticed another attention-getting headliner, “Drummer Suspected of Embezzling $750K From Charity Concert.” In brief, the U.S. attorney’s office reported that a star drummer who has performed with many of the most famous names in music has been charged with allegedly embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from a charity concert for homeless and displaced children in the world’s conflict zones.
Did you find the above two cases shocking…especially the one about the nuns? Well for me, not really. The fact is, it does not matter where you look these days, incidents of dishonesty and deceit are happening practically everywhere, and it is becoming more and more difficult to know whom to trust. The title of my first published book, Business Fraud: From Trust to Betrayal, came to me quite easily. I believe that no internal fraud can take place within any organization without the embezzler: 1) holding a position of trust, 2) having little or no supervision or oversight, and, 3) being perceived as honest and trustworthy. Together, these three elements foster acts of dishonesty and betrayal.
I am in no way suggesting here that you simply distrust your personnel. In fact, it’s been my experience that most people are honest. Unfortunately, as we all know, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to determine the honesty of any individual. Sadly, as noted above, even those individuals with higher moral standards may resort to committing acts of dishonesty under certain circumstances, or when confronted with intense personal pressures.
Betrayal of Trust
Many organizations fail to recognize or accept the fact that whenever one individual is permitted to perform a series of critical job tasks without adequate internal control and oversight, that person, if dishonest, has the power to manipulate matters and conceal deceit.
When confronted with a questionable or suspicious situation, will you recognize that the possibility of internal dishonesty exists, or will you choose to ignore it?
Given the stress in business to cut cost these days, and the inadequate attention often paid to consequences, is it any wonder that American businesses are unnecessarily losing well into the billions of dollars to internal thieves?
Even as you read this post, an embezzler or another fraudster may be ripping off your organization. I mean right this minute! But how would you know? That is the question, is it not?