In August 2011, I reported that Paul Shin Devine, a global supply manager for Apple, was due in court because he was “accused of accepting more than $1 million in kickbacks from half a dozen Asian suppliers of iPhone and iPod accessories.”

According to Reuters (with a hat-tip to Paul Salisbury, SPSM), Devine “pleaded guilty on Monday to wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering,” will forfeit “about $2.28 million in money and property,” and “faces a maximum prison term of 20 years.”

Sentencing was scheduled for June 6, 2011.

While his attorney characterized Devine’s criminal behavior as “a mistake,” I would have to disagree. Strongly.

A mistake would be something like a new purchasing employee accepting a branded pen from a supplier when the employee’s company had a “no gifts from suppliers” policy in its policy manual but failed to advise the employee of the policy or provide any ethics training. Getting millions of dollars in kickbacks isn’t a mistake – it is a premeditated crime of greed.

Simply put, if your procurement role gives you many benefits beyond those provided by your employer, you may just have crossed the ethical – or criminal – line.

Whether you’re a purchasing professional who deals with suppliers constantly or your scope of work only requires occasional supplier interaction, there are many potential ethical landmines waiting to explode and subsequently ruin your career.

The good news is that you can identify those supplier interactions—even the subtle ones—that can cross the line between good ethics and poor ethics.

Become a member of one of the world’s largest procurement associations today.


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