Banana republic business ethics

Letter in today’s Irish Times.


On July 27th last year the Supreme Court found that DCC executive chairman Mr. Jim Flavin had traded illegally on the stock market. Mr. Justice Niall Fennally said: “Trading on secret or privileged information is now recognised for what it is – a fraud on the market.” Profits of €85 million were made on the trading.

Since that judgment the Office of Corporate Enforcement has tried but failed to have Mr. Flavin disqualified as a director. Such a disqualification represents the minimum sanction available for such activities.

In your edition of May 20th Mr. Flavin is quoted as saying confidently that he intends to stay on until his planned retirement in mid- 2010. His decision has the full support of the board of DCC.

Also on July 27th, 2007, an American federal judge sentenced former Qwest Communications chief executive Joe Nacchio to six years in prison for insider trading. In addition, Mr. Nacchio was fined $19 million and had to forfeit $52 million in stock profits.

When the allegations against Mr. Nacchio first came to light he was treated like any other American citizen in the circumstances. The state investigated, he was tried before a jury of his peers and, when found guilty, was given appropriate punishment.

This has not happened in the Flavin/DCC case. Apart from the Office of Corporate Enforcement, no other state or law enforcement agency has acted against Mr. Flavin in response to the Supreme Court decision.

For so long as this situation prevails Ireland can rightly be seen as a country with standards of business law and ethics on a level with those of a banana republic.

Yours, etc,