Opinion: Hanky-panky at the Westin

POSTED: 09/5/13 2:22 PM

The court case was once more about grand theft yesterday. An operational manager – or rather, a former operational manager – at the Westin Hotel fiddled with credit cards and robbed the company of around $220,000.

One would think that large companies like the Westin have proper checks and balances in place. An early detection system if you want. But no, the manager (who is only a suspect at this moment, because he has not been sentenced yet) could start with his shenanigans in 2008 – or 2009, opinion differ here – and continue until his arrest in 2012.

Over a period of 27 months, the charges go, the man collected on average $8,000 per month on top of his salary. The manager came to his actions because he was unhappy with his salary. He had to work way too hard for way too little money. Not a justification of course, but money is a darn good reason for people to do things they shouldn’t.

We have no clue how much the Westin is paying its managers and to be honest, we don’t care about that either. Nobody puts a gun to people’s heads to force them to work in that place and when you sign a contract we figure that you agree with the conditions.

Interestingly, the particular manager has the nationality of Sri Lanka. How the Westin got a work permit for such an employee remained an unanswered mystery in court, but maybe this is reason for the labor department to look further into the staffing at the Westin. You never know when a government department feels like jumping into action.

But let’s get back to the embezzlement story. The manager claims that the company’s accountant – a man who has apparently in the meantime left the island – had come up with some bogus story about problems with the credit card accounts. He asked the manager for his company-credit card, then book money on to that account and subsequently asked the manager to retrieve this in cash and give it to him.

Everybody still there? It’s a complicated story, and the prosecution did not really believe it. Maybe that’s because the disgruntled operational manager was driving a rented BMW – a pricey car by any standards.

Whatever may be false or true in this story, there is a lesson to be learned for many companies here. When employees are given the opportunity to steal, they will steal. Oh, of course not all employees will do that, for sure. But there is always someone who will grab such an opportunity.

The question is now how it is possible that this went on for so long at the mighty Westin. We are not familiar with the company’s checks and balances, but based on results it is fair to say that there was a serious breakdown somewhere along the road.

This is not to take the Mickey out of the Westin, but to urge other companies to take a good hard look at their own systems and to figure out if there are any weaknesses that could hard hit the company.

Safeguarding a company’s assets is not only in the interest of the owners. It is also in the interest of its employees. If one man is able to rob a company blind and it goes belly up, all others will lose their job. This is why it is also reasonable to ask from employees to report any hanky-panky they become aware of. It could save their jobs.

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Opinion: Hanky-panky at the Westin by