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SNC-Lavalin has been around since the early 1990’s and is one of Canada’s largest engineering and construction firms. In February 2015, SNC-Lavalin came under fire for money laundering, fraud, forgery and bribery of 48 million to secure contracts in Libya, Nigeria and other Africa and Asian countries. The dozens of former executives who have been charged by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police held positions varying from low-level roles to senior positions, as well as controlling roles as a vice-president and the former CEO of the company. As we look at the roles played in the criminal activity that happened under SNCL’s roof, we can see how individual behaviour, personality, and values have led to many of the unethical crimes and to a corrupt organization.
Looking at the individual behaviours and performance of former SNCL executives, we can break down their actions by looking at them through the lens of the MARS model. The MARS model is an acronym for Motivation, Abilities, Role Perception, and Situational Factors, which by combining these give us the results of an individual’s behaviour. (CITE) SNCL’s business tactics and employees were heavily motivated by money. Due to the highly competitive industry, top-level managers felt pressured to use bribery on government officials and leaders to win and maintain contract to make money for the firm. However, the choice was also very self-serving. Executives were driven by monetary incentives and promotions if they successfully acquired contracts or agreed to engage in wrongful activities. This behaviour can be classified as Counterproductive Work Behaviour, under the 5 important types of individual behaviour. Another type of behaviour shown in the criminal actions of SNCL executives was Organizational Citizenship Behaviour. Executives worked to reach the same goals, regardless of the negative tactics involved and worked hard to maintain a positive front image for the company. (CITE) This also played a big reason to why some employees, especially low-level executives would behave unethically to avoid losing their jobs. Since SNCL employees were conditioned and trained to have the skills, abilities, and resources to use bribery tactics, the choice seemed to have zero consequences and was encouraged by the company’s culture. The former vice-president explained that SNC-Lavalin had “a corporate culture where it was common practice to do all that was necessary, including the payment of ‘commissions’ and other benefits to obtain contracts.” (Steven L. McShane, ) This unspoken encouragement and manipulation caused many individuals to act with wrongful behaviour.
The personalities of SNCL employees that were a part of the scandal showed traits of conscientiousness, extraversion, and agreeableness, which from the five model traits of Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. (CITE) All these traits can be positive if used ethically in the workplace. However, SNCL employees chose to use their natural qualities of being goal-focused, talkative and assertive to manipulate others for their own benefit. Low-level employees especially had strong agreeableness, which made it easy for top-management to get employees in third world countries to launder money without getting their hands dirty. For example, an SNCL engineer in Nigeria used his personal funds to pay off Nigerian officials for a bribe that was covered up as a “soil investigation.” To which he replied in his confession, “when the boss asks, in that part of the world, what would you do if you were put in my shoes if you were in a remote area of Nigeria?”(Steven L. McShane, ) His isolation mixed with blind trust, allowed his superior to take advantage of the situation. If we look at the act of committing fraud, and the personality traits you need to get away with it. KPMG, a Big Four accounting organization, conducted a study that broke down fraudsters as extroverted, friendly, and highly respected. These personality traits mixed together with traits like greed, and the desire for personal gain makes individuals more likely to partake or organize fraudulent acts. (Robin Singh, ) Just like the traits of SNC-Lavalin’s executive and employees, it was the perfect recipe for illegal scheming.
When we look at the company values that were projected they were far from honest or moral. SNCL employees had moral sensitivity towards their criminal actions, yet they still gave a preference to money over any ethical workplace Code of Conduct. They exonerated each other by saying that it was just a part of the company’s culture or values, which made it hard for them to not to engage. SNCL employees left their personal values at the door and conformed to violating ethical and legal principles daily because it was the norm. This is where their values lacked moral intensity, as they did not question the ethical weight of their actions. We can see how company culture really did affect the workplace, as several executives did try to come forward, but were wrongfully dismissed, lost out on promotions, or were blatantly ignored. In one case, the SNC-Lavalin board received an anonymous internal letter of the bribery activities taking place, but they only “took note” of it. This solidified that no real change could come from internal push. Even when it eventually went public, the board chair expressed that, “clearly our board of directors can’t govern something that they don’t know about, or prevent something they are unaware of,” (Steven L.McShane, ), this completely downplayed their involvement and knowledge of their companies wrongdoings.
SNC-Lavalin acted unethically and illegally for over a decade with no plan or action to change. We can determine that if they were never investigated or charged, that they would continue to perform illegally and continue to add to their long list of criminal activity. Now that their wrongdoings are public, SNCL will have a lot to prove, change, and repay if they ever wish to become a respectable company. If we reward honesty and establish good company values and ethics, a company culture can change. But, it will need to be changed by new leaders and new top-management employees. Replacing and hiring like-minded people will help ensure that employees are held accountable and want to work ethically. We cannot change what has already happened, but we can learn from this case about how negative individual behaviours, personalities, and values can create a company for the worst. SNCL’s only chance to rid their company of their corruption that they bred for over a decade was to get caught.
- Steven L Mcshane – “SNC-Lavalin Group”
- Curtin University (Australia) and University of Victoria (Canada)
- Robert Singh – “Inside the Mind of a Fraudster”
- (Look for this is the Textbook)
- MARS Model
- (Look for this in the Textbook)
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