The fallout from the indictment and arrest of Paul Devine, a global supply manager at Apple charged with wire fraud, money laundering and unlawful monetary transactions involving more than one million dollars in alleged kickbacks, has continued since we first commented on this incident.  As I pen this entry, a Google search notes over 1200 web entries directly related to various aspects of this incident. Commentaries in the blogosphere and among academics are focusing on the implications for procurement and supply planning strategies, and we all have to ponder whether this one, highly visible incident is just another sign of the state of the times or whether this is a watershed incident leading to more focused ethical standards.

Reports in various global financial publications such as the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal are focusing on the general reactions among specific suppliers involved, as various companies respond to protect either legal interests or reputations in the market.  According to the Financial Times, Kaedar Electronics of China, a unit of Taiwan’s Pegatron Corp. and Cresyn of South Korea admitted it benefitted from the information provided by Mr. Devine. The article notes that “Cresyn and Mr. Devine signed a “consulting services agreement” spelling out what Mr. Devine was required to leak, including Apple product roadmaps and sales forecasts, in exchange for $6,000 in monthly payments.” The Times notes that Pegatron had begun its investigation and had suspended the Kaedar manager allegedly involved. Meanwhile a Wall Street Journal article notes that a Pegatron spokesperson acknowledged that Kaedar did pay a brokerage commission to an intermediate trading company for its business with Apple, but declined to disclose the amount of money paid. Others suppliers reportedly involved are indicting that such practices are not condoned.

No doubt, the coming days and weeks will provide even more opinion and commentary on the implications of this incident, and whether it sends a wake-up call on the state of ethical procurement practices when supply chain business pressures and various business cultures collide.  While some may deflect such remedies toward the moral principles or motivations of the individuals involved, or on future hiring and selection policies, in my view, hiring policy has little to do with the underlying root cause of this episode.

Individuals respond to the business culture and the goals and organizational expectations practiced within their firms.  We all know that Apple surrounds itself with a culture of extreme secrecy to protect itself from competitors.  Suppliers want an edge on their competitors, and will sometimes go to extraordinary means to secure protected information that provides that edge.  To change all of this, all members of the value-chain need to equally share in the risks and rewards of success, and further need to know where the lines are drawn. Apple has a well articulated Supplier Code of Conduct, and to its credit, is taking very decisive action in dealing with this incident.

I come back toward the needs for insuring that proper risk and reward strategies are practiced and properly monitored among all in the value-chain, and with all professionals involved. Confidentiality and the safeguarding of key information has its place and all parties need to understand that certain behavior and practices will not be tolerated.  The anticipation of lucrative business does not warrant unscrupulous behavior.

What’s your view?

Bob Ferrari