No sooner had Aggie Sutcliffe mentioned former Olympus boss Michael Woodford in today’s Ethics Girl column than the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) named him as the recipient of its 2012 Cliff Robertson Sentinel Award for whistleblowing.
The annual award was established to recognise “a person who, without regard to personal or professional consequences, has publicly disclosed wrongdoing in business or government — the unselfish hero”. In the ACFE’s view, such people “are corporate sentinels, our frontline of defence against wrongdoing, and we created this award to recognise their sacrifices”.
British citizen Woodford worked for the camera-manufacturing giant for 30 years and became the first Westerner ever to hold the CEO position at the company. His role in the scandal that engulfed Olympus began when he confronted its Board of Directors – on multiple occasions – to question large fees that had been paid out to hide its losses from securities investments.
On 14 October last year, Woodford was fired by the company’s Executive Board, who cited a “management culture clash”. Just one month later, Olympus officials publicly admitted to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) that they had paid a series of fraudulent advisory fees during a decade-long cover up, valued at some £1.06 billion.
The ACFE named its award in honour of the Academy-Award-winning actor, who discovered in the late 1970s that a Hollywood producer was creating false royalty cheques – forging the signatures of people for whom they were intended and pocketing the cash. When the powerful mogul heard that Robertson intended to report the fraud, he threatened the actor, telling him that he would never work in Hollywood again. Robertson went ahead with his report and, as a result, was blacklisted – not returning to the film industry for years.
Woodford said: “It’s very encouraging to receive the Sentinel Award from the ACFE. It lifts my soul because it’s been a pretty miserable time”.
Find out more about the ACFE