The Thief, the Cheat, the Crook and My Lawyer

The Thief, the Cheat, the Crook and My Lawyer

Conniving, sharp eyed, sales sharks circle your every dollar every day, tracking weaknesses and operating on instincts formed deep within the reptilian stem in their brains.

As a way of celebrating IDG's 20th anniversary in Australia I've decided to revisit a few highlights from two decades of customer service excellence by examining some vendor/user relationship case studies which never quite made the light of day. As an industry, IT makes so much money so quickly that wide-scale fraud and criminality would prove to be too much like hard work for too little a return, for most people. Stupidity and incompetence are other matters, and no company can ever totally be free from rogue employees, or elements within its ranks.

Free speech being what it isn't in Australia, you will forgive the circumspect nature of some of these vignettes.

Let's begin more than a decade ago with the Honeywell mainframe salesman who no doubt has long since completed his stretch at Her Majesty's pleasure. This gentleman not only sold mainframes to QBE, but he also moonlighted as a QBE insurance salesman selling policies to his colleagues at Honeywell. Forget EDS, this bloke had co-sourcing pegged ages ago.

His personal triumph involved signing Honeywell's biggest deal with QBE.

Unfortunately, (and you can guess where this is leading) a few months later the senior executives at Honeywell took a disturbed and irate phone call from QBE.

The insurance company, quite reasonably, wanted to know why there was a truck parked out the front of its data centre attempting to unload a multimillion dollar mainframe which it never ordered.

The best part of this story is what allegedly happened next. When NSW's finest dropped around in the blue light taxi to slap the handcuffs on this blackguard, the myth makers claim that he was sitting in the office of one of the Honeywell managers trying to flog him an insurance policy from you know who. Let's hope it was income insurance.

While this story fits into the ancient history category for our nascent industry, you will be pleased to learn that scams continue apace today.

Take the application software house that found itself in a delicate situation when one of its prospects demanded a meeting with a particular reference site.

The staff at that site had no intention of acting as referees, but the vendor had already promised a meeting. No problems, they hired an actor to play the part of the IT manager of the reference site, and even had him wait in the lobby of the reference site's headquarters to greet the prospect, whereupon vendor, prospect and actor headed out to lunch.

Then there was the database company which had to write down its regional revenues after it discovered that one of its sales people had been using its operations to launder drug money. Ironically, they were making more money out of the drug sales disguised as database business than they were earning from genuine licence sales.

In Canberra last year one of the large internetworking companies had to take an employee to task for attempting to bribe an employment placement agency. He was trying to ensure that a consultant friendly to his company was placed into the critical evaluation role of a major infrastructure tender. That bribery attempt involved a $12,000 kickback -- just in case you are looking for new revenue opportunities.

On that occasion I actually managed to get confirmation from all three parties involved that something was seriously askew in Fat City.

And if you're wondering why a story with confirmation from three independent sources never made print, ask my lawyers.

Andrew Birmingham is the CIO of IDG Communications. He can be reached at

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