·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary


More Money, More Problems for ABB

— February 28, 2017

An employee of ABB went missing earlier this month, on February 4th, along with a large amount of money — $100 million dollars.

Sometimes big companies face big problems.  Executives of a worldwide money making firm that nets a couple billion in profits annually may find it difficult to keep track of every penny that comes and goes.  At least this was the hope of one employee at ABB.

Image Courtesy of CNN
Image Courtesy of CNN

An employee of an Asian subsidiary of the major Swedish-Swiss power and robotics company (ABB) went missing earlier this month, on February 4th.  Along with him, $100 million.  ABB is a leading manufacturer of automation and process control systems, electronic components, instrumentation and measurement devices, and power substation and oil and gas equipment.  It employs approximately 132,000 people around the world.

The firm’s executives announced they believe they have uncovered what appears to be “a sophisticated criminal scheme” to steal the money at its South Korean operation.  Oh Myeong-se, treasurer and one of two integrity ombudsmen for ABB Korea, who was responsible for handling any ethical concerns brought to the attention of management by ABB employees, walked away with the funds.  Myeong-se, who is now in his late 50s, has been with the firm for some time, having also been the head of compliance at the Korea subsidiary until 2010.  In this position, Myeong-se was, ironically, responsible for maintaining ABB’s legal and ethical integrity, ensuring compliance with moral business standards.  He went missing with his loot four days before the company filed a complaint with law enforcement regarding suspected criminal activity.

Image Courtesy of Success Stories
Image Courtesy of Success Stories

Myeong-se is now suspected of forging documents and conspiring with outside perpetrators to steal the money.  A law enforcement spokesperson has indicated that authorities believe he fled to Hong Kog with the money and they are currently working to bring him back to his home country.

A check of ABB’s global account activity has pinpointed the impact of the crime solely to Asia.  Group Chief Executive Ulrich Spiesshofer said the conspiracy was “shocking news” and serves as a damaging blow to the firm’s already fragile reputation.  The hit comes at a time in which the firm is already being investigated by the U.K. Serious Fraud Office for discovery of improperly issued payments in another criminal investigation.  After word of the latest hit to the company’s finances was released, its shares immediately fell.

Activist investor Cevian Capital AB, ABB’s second largest shareholder, recently pushed for a break up of the company, and Cevian co-founder Lars Forberg has been nominated for a seat on the board.  Cevian had pushed for the break up, claiming that the Swiss industrial company was too difficult to run, and Cevian’s co-founder, Christer Gardell, has vowed to keep pushing for disbandment.

“We’re looking at every option,” ABB representative Domenico Truncellito said of how the company plans to save its reputation and profits.  “We are investigating externally and internally as well.”  The firm has hired forensic investigators to help close the case. However, the theft has impacted ABB’s bottom line as far as reporting its 2016 taxes is concerned.  The company is expecting to take the loss as a pre-tax hit on its 2016 results, which totaled $2 billion last year in net profits.


Major European company says employee has gone missing with $100M

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