Class justice

Let’s see if we have got this straight. You are the top financial dog at a global supermarket group and you forge letters which give the impression you have full control of various subsidiaries so you can add their sales figures to your books.

And when you are caught, you get 240 hours of community service and a €100,000 fine – a fraction of the nice fat pay checks and bonuses you have enjoyed all those years.
Or you are at the very top of the corporate tree and you discover your CFO has being lying. So instead of sacking him, or going public with the scandal, you attempt to cover it up.
And your reward for this behaviour? A whopping great fine of just €30,000.
The Ahold letter scandal, combined with a second one in the US, nearly finished off the supermarket group. Shareholders lost millions. It was out and out fraud.
So you’d think judges might take a tough line. Alas no. The judges don’t seem to think the crime was particularly heinous – not compared with say, pretending you live alone to claim a higher pension or paying someone cash to paint your front door.
It is easy to see the light sentences as class justice. And at a time when the world markets are in crisis thanks to inflated egos and stupid risk-taking, it’s a bizarre message to send out to corporate Holland.

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