Changing chairs

    Business Spotlight Audio 6/2016
    Zwei Bürostühle.
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    Transcript: Changing chairs

    We sat around the boardroomVorstandszimmer; hier: Sitzungsraumboardroom table waiting for Kingsley to arrive. Our company chairmanVorstandsvorsitzenderchairman liked to keep us waiting. Cynthia, his PA (personal assistant)(Chef-)Sekretär(in)PA, put her perfectly made -up face around the door.

    “Mr Adams will be here in a minute,” she said. “He asked me to tell you to make sure everything was ready to begin — unlike last time,” she added, looking at me coldly.

    I said nothing. I was always ready. I just didn’t always have the figures Kingsley wanted to see. I looked round the table and my so-called colleagues avoided eye contact. They were pleased that somebody else was there to be the targetZiel; hier: Zielscheibetarget of Kingsley’s temperLaune; hier: Zorntemper.

    We waited in silence for another ten minutes before there was a sudden loud burst of laughter from the hall and Kingsley threw open the door. Outside, I saw Cynthia disappearing down the corridor, high heels clicking loudly on the stone floor. I hit “Send” on the email I had prepared on my phone. the show can begines kann losgehenThe show could begin.
    “Come on then,” Kingsley said to me as he sat down heavily in his chair. “Let’s get started. Haven’t had time to look at that agendaTagesordnungagenda you sent.”
    How typical, I thought.

    We looked at the normal agenda points: the minutesProtokollminutes from the last meeting were read and accepted, and then each of the board members presented the results for their divisionUnternehmensbereichdivision, carefully to massage (results)(Ergebnisse) schönenmassaged so that they looked good. Kingsley didn’t even try to hide his boredomLangeweileboredom.

    “Good,” said Kingsley when they’d finished. “Time for lunch!”
    “Just one more agenda point, Kingsley,” I said. “The Serious Fraud Office (SFO)Betrugsdezernat (UK)Serious Fraud Office is asking questions about our purchaseKaufpurchase of Camberley Electronics last year.” Everybody stopped as Kingsley turned to look at me.
    “What kind of questions?”

    Our company produces component(Bau-)Teilcomponents for the car industry, and last year, we had to launch sth.etw. lancierenlaunched a hostile takeoverfeindliche Übernahmehostile takeover of a rival, Camberley Electronics. It had been a bitter fight, both on the stock marketBörsestock market and within the board. As company accountantBilanzbuchhalter(in)accountant, I had advised against it. The price we had to offer per shareAktieshare was far too high in my view. And it kept going up.
    “You’re just my bean counterErbsenzähler(in) (ifml.) (bean,Bohne)bean counter!” he shouted at me during one meeting. “Do as you’re told. Don’t think  — you’re no good at it!”
    Kingsley to terrify sbd.jmdn. erschrecken; hier: einschüchternterrified the rest of the board and forced the takeover. When the final offer was made, I was the only member to vote against it. I made sure those minutes were carefully saved for future reference.

    “The SFO is investigating the share priceAktienkursshare price movements of Camberley Electronics,” I told the room. “It seems an unidentified buyer had bought up a lot of their shares at the original price before we went public with our offer. Of course, whoever it was made a lot of money when we finally agreed to pay ten times the original stock market valuationBewertungvaluation for the company.”
    “What has that got to do with us?” asked Kingsley.
    “I don’t know. But a police officer visited me yesterday and said they were investigating whether any board members had used their inside knowledge to profit from the takeover.”

    Instantly, chaos broke out around the table. It was amusing to see the terror on the faces of my colleagues as they considered the consequences of an investigation into their private affairs. I didn’t think any of them had been involved in insider trading but I was pretty sure that none of them had been completely honest with their taxes.

    “Quiet!” said Kingsley, hitting the table with his hand. “This is nonsense!”
    Cynthia reappeared at the door looking frightened.
    “Mr Adams, for the past half hour, journalists have been calling to ask for an interview. They all say they’ve had an anonymous tip that there’s a fraud investigation to do with Camberley Electronics!”
    “I hate to say this,” I said, “but I did warn the board about…”
    “Shut up!” shouted Kingsley. “Cynthia, get the legal departmentRechtsabteilunglegal department down here, now!”
    He spent that night in a room with the lawyerAnwalt/Anwältinlawyers, telephoning me frequently to check some financial details about the takeover bid. As I had expected, the police arrived at the company early the next morning. I made sure everything was available to them and was outside watching as they left the building carrying computers and boxes of documents — and with Kingsley in handcuffsHandschellenhandcuffs. The photographers and journalists were ready and Kingsley’s furious face was all over the internet in minutes. The police like to make sure that happens. They call it the “perp walk”, short for “perpetratorTäter(in)perpetrator”. They say it discourages other white-collar criminalWirtschaftskriminelle(r)white-collar criminals.

    The rest of the day was chaos. The other board members ran around like headless chickens, not knowing what to do. Finally, I to call an emergency meetingeine Krisensitzung einberufencalled an emergency meeting.
    “I’m sure there is no truth to these stories that Kingsley was the mystery buyer of Camberley Electronics shares,” I said. “I imagine he’ll be back in a couple of days. In the meantime, I propose I take over the day-to-day running of a companylaufender Betriebday-to-day running of the company and handle the police and newspapers until he returns. All in favour, raise your hand!”
    They all gratefully raised a hand. Nobody else wanted to deal with this.

    I got home very late. By then, the police were providing information to the press. A USB stick had been sent to them anonymously with details of a special account opened the previous year and used for trading in Camberley shares. Kingsley’s wife had set it up using her maiden nameMädchennamemaiden name.
    “You,” said Cynthia, getting up from in front of the television where the business news headlines were full of the story, “were brilliant! It all worked perfectly!” She kissed me on the lips.

    “Well, it was only thanks to you,” I said. “You got his account password. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have had any evidenceBeweis(e)evidence.”
    She to brush sth. off sth.etw. von etw. abbürstenbrushed something off my jacket. “The man’s an idiot. He uses the same password for everything. Oh, but this is wonderful! ” She kissed me again.
    “So, what’s your next step, Chairwoman Alice?” she asked.


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