back to article Informatica UKI veep was rightfully sacked over Highways England $5k golf jolly, says tribunal

Informatica's former UK & Ireland vice president was correctly sacked after letting a salesman take Highways England's executive IT director on a $5,000 golfing jaunt, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has ruled. Not only did Derek Thompson breach Informatica's anti-corruption policies but he also warned underlings to "be …

  1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    What about the Highways England person accepting the junket?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      After Dinner Speech circuit...

      This sounds suspiciously similar to the after dinner speech circuit ex-politicians like Blair and Clinton were so prolifically involved in. Situations where it's difficult to put a remuneration value on what someone should earn for a speech, and why a particular company wants to offer excessive remuneration+expenses for, what are bland speeches by a particular person/ex-politician in the first place.

      I've always thought (in general) there was much more to these sort of events than meets the eye. i.e. they have the potential to be a form of bribery years after 'the favour' has been made, (Gulf War? Bosnia?) but clearly if it is, then that is what is so clever about organizing these types of headline after dinner speech events paying what appears, to the layman, excessive remuneration for the time and effort involved, it's the perfect cover.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: After Dinner Speech circuit...

        It's a way to do lobbying without registering as a lobbyist or declaring lobbying fees/costs. The "well known ex-politician" giving the speech has all the "right" contacts.

        1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

          Re: After Dinner Speech circuit...

          Apparently our "Dear Leader" can't wait to ditch his current gig, to go and earn some serious £££

          1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

            Re: After Dinner Speech circuit...

            I'd bung him a tenner to f-off now! Maybe we should do a crowdfunder?

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Google is your friend. A quick online search indicates he continued in post.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Maybe this is the new way of doing things: Offer the junket, let the person make their speech, and enjoy the fruits (expensive golf trip/hotel), then scapegoat a dispensable individual after the fact, to make it look all above board, make it look like the company is proactive against any sort of bribery allegations.

      But the bottom line here, the junket still took place and the IT Director still got his freebie. In some ways, it would be worth it to Informatica doing it this way, considering the size of the contract.

      The Highway Agency's IT director managed to tick off his golfing bucket list, and he is still employed by Highways Agency. He can still sign off contracts with Informatica. i.e. the HA IT Director has still been indirectly remunerated for the speech.

      It looks, for all intents and purposes - above board, vetted and disciplinary action taken against Informatica employee(s). Job done.

      Nothing is straightforward nowadays. The IT Director should have been made to pay for the trip out of his own pocket, after the fact, and should be prevented from signing off Informatica contracts going forward. Even then, that doesn't really satisfy things. He should have never taken the trip on those terms.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        But with no foreigners anymore there are vast (but limited) career opportunities for home grown scapegoats

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "He should have never taken the trip on those terms."

        Exactly that. Accepting the bribe (for that is what it has been deemed to be in law) is breaking the anti-bribary laws just as much as offering the bribe in the first place.

        1. Jon 37 Silver badge

          Maybe not. The article says it was deemed a bribe under US law, not UK law. The company paying the bribe was US owned, so US law applies to the company. The person receiving the bribe was a UK government official, so US law doesn't apply to him.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hey Informatica - how much per head do you spend on your user conferences? Asking for a friend.

      Utter hypocrisy. There seems to have been a suggestion that some lesser amount would have been ok. So its only a bribe if its excessive?

      I always think that Bribery and Corruption legislation (and consequential corporate rules) is one of the worst examples of Western Developed countries claiming their own shit dont stink. At least most of the rest of the world is honest about it. Westerners tend to disguise it in mutual back scratching.

      For a more honest approach all that's required is a donation register and for "bribed" employee's to recuse themselves from conflicts. If its good enough for our MP's why can't the rest of us do it? Pigs protecting their own troughs.

    5. hoola Silver badge

      Exactly what I was thinking.

      There is no way this could be acceptable in the public sector. Yes Tony Malone could speak at the conference and have reasonable expenses and accommodation covered by the organiser but this is taking the mickey.

      It should have had to have been declared as part of the entire trip. In reality he would be duty bound to decline this as it is of inappropriate value.

      Investigation needed there as well. What is acceptable in the private sector is not in the public sector.

      Heck, if a supplier even wants to take us out for a meal there are strict guidelines on what is acceptable.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Highways England had a very strict antibribery policy that made it difficult for legitimate vendors, as we literally couldn't offer them a sandwich during site meetings according to their own rules. Lavish hospitality and overnight accommodation were banned. It is APPALLING that the giver of this wildly excessive hospitality was dismissed but the recipient wasn't.

      https://www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk/Notice/Attachment/bd40b7cb-09b1-410b-9102-0db6dc2c5831 - I can't find Highways England's/National Highways's policy online but from memory I think it's 90% identical to the Highways Agency's policy that predated the golf affair.

  2. UCAP Silver badge

    What about the Highways England's IT director?

    I've been through training relating to the UK's Bribery Act 2010, and it specifies that its an offence to knowingly make or receive a bribe (whether money, goods or services - the latter being the case here) in the UK or anywhere else in the world. Hence I am wondering whether Highways England's IT director has also been hauled in front of the beaks accused of breaking the act.

    1. jollyboyspecial

      Re: What about the Highways England's IT director?

      I don't see anywhere where it is clear that the junket was a bribe. i.e. that signing the contract was condition on receipt of the gift. It's always been a problem with such legislation to clearly define when something is a bribe.

      However when I was in the public sector the policy was that any offered gift over a certain value had to go through auditors for approval. If the auditors told you to reject it then you rejected it. The auditors may also accept the gift on behalf of the organisation and choose to donate it elsewhere - for example to a charity or possibly as a raffle prize or similar. If you had already received an unsolicited gift then the same rules applied, but obviously refusing the gift in this case was almost impossible.

      I don't recall the actual limit on value but it certainly wasn't much as there was one case where some of us returned from a supplier meeting with mugs, beer mats and biros and we were told they had to be declared. The upshot of that was that audit decided we could keep the gifts, but only for work use. Seriously.

      Before the job was given to auditors the role was carried out by senior management. That contunued up until there were rumours that senior management were accepting the most peachy gifts on behalf of the organisation and keeping them. Nothing was ever proceed naturally.

      I've always thought it would just be easier to ban gifts altogether.

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: What about the Highways England's IT director?

        "I don't see anywhere where it is clear that the junket was a bribe. i.e. that signing the contract was condition on receipt of the gift. It's always been a problem with such legislation to clearly define when something is a bribe."

        UK anti-bribery legislation is very strict. In particular it's not required that there be a direct quid pro quo for a gift to be considered corrupt. It's enough that a lavish gift was given to an official who could decide any future contracts. So there is no problem with the clarity of the legislation. The guy could certainly be charged of corrupt behaviour under UK law.

        "obviously refusing the gift in this case was almost impossible."

        why? "Oh I couldn't possibly accept" is bout as British an answer as there is.

        1. goldcd

          Re: What about the Highways England's IT director?

          Indeed.

          If say the director is taken out for a golfing trip each year by Informatica, then he might even subconsciously want to ensure a relationship is maintained with them. Might not be handing them work, but maybe just asking whether they made the shortlist or were considered for RFPs

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What about the Highways England's IT director?

        "I've always thought it would just be easier to ban gifts altogether."

        Only for the Auditors, for us plebs it ends up with draconian policies such as having to fill out a report if a supplier offers to buy us a coffee.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What about the Highways England's IT director?

      "...it specifies that its an offence to knowingly make or receive a bribe..."

      UK bribery law is relatively narrowly defined, requiring promise of exchange of financial or other advantage for improper exercise of authority or function, and vice versa. As the junket was apparently offered without promise of reciprocation and offered after the deal was done, it probably doesn't pass the threshold for bribery in the UK.

      However it would have definitely fallen under the Highways England gifts policy, which invariably will prohibit acceptance of gifts of an extravagant or unusual nature. Given the INFA VP didn't even go golfing with the official being definitely-not-bribed, there's no rational justification as a business or networking meeting. It's hard to understand how this didn't result in the official and their boss getting the sack.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Also smells like an excuse to terminate. It's usual to throw the lowest ranked under the bus, yet the sales person went on the trip and their boss got fired.

    1. Julian Bradfield

      The salesman was fired as well.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
        Joke

        Yes - it must have been just awful for Informatica: having to sack those people knowing that they wouldn't have to pay the bonuses.

  4. MutantAlgorithm

    Gift value

    In the Local Authority I worked in until recently the value was £20, anything above that had to be reported and was very rarely allowed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gift value

      When I was tech support manager in a council we had a cupboard full of 'gifts' received by default from suppliers when making a volume purchases, games attached to graphics cards, Cd's, event tickets (we had to keep them to prove they were never used). At that point we were not even allwed to uise things like mice if we hadn't procured them so there were a nice couple of trackballs gathering dust. We even digital camera's. we couldn't use them, couldn't sell them, couldn't even put them in a charity raffle. I also had no way to dispose of them.

      This was the same organisation that gave on call technical managers mobile phones then refused to pay an ex-gracia payment to cover the tax increase when Nigel Lawson declared a mobile phone as a benefit in kind.

      The thought of being taxed for being on call 24/7 when we weren't even paid for it was a final straw and my colleagues and I all returned our phones making a very nice pyramid on the desk of the senior manager who was responsible for the jack ass decision

    2. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Re: Gift value

      I'm currently contracting for a company whose primary line of business is regulated by Ofgem. Here it is similar to yours. No cash or voucher-like things at all. And anything including and above the size or value of a bottle of wine has to be formally declared and approved by internal audit.

      Contrary to this, my Ltd co. will happily accept anything. Please... please... anything at all ;-)

    3. hoola Silver badge

      Re: Gift value

      The same thing at the authority I worked at. Prior to that I was in a very specialised section of retail working for a well know name and it was not uncommon for happy customers to provide a gift or tip for the designer. This would have to be declared and a value decided. Up to a certain amount (I think it was about £5 in the 1990s) you could usually keep it. Above this the options were to pay the value that had been put on the gift and keep it of leave it and it was donated to charity.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Someone who worked for a bank was bragging to me about the sporting event box seats they would purchase to entertain clients. For ordinary season games that runs $1500-$3000 per seat, for playoffs the sky is the limit.

    It doesn't surprise me that an IT company that actually creates something and doesn't just push money around would actually have and enforce rules about bribery. Thompson needs to get a high level job at a bank. Perhaps this publicity will boost his resume.

  6. sketharaman

    Overzealous Enforcement

    Overzealous enforcement IMO. Golf has been a sales best practice for eons. It costs what it costs. These regulators should be put on quarterly sales quotas, then only they will realize...

  7. pc-fluesterer.info
    Holmes

    "how playing golf benefited the business"

    How may playing golf benefit the business? Hm. Just thinking, though.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IT Director got away with it

    Because he told everyone he was on a course. I’ll get my coat! :-)

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