How Come the Wife Didn’t Mention It?

GM had a little difficulty with an undisclosed conflict of interest.  The company awarded a $600,000 contract to ad agency, Mother New York, for promotion of the centennial celebration of Chevrolets.  However, Pernilla Ammann is the chief operating officer at Mother New York, and her husband, Dan Ammann is the chief finance officer at GM.  Because the contract was over $120,000, GM policy requires that GM’s CEO and chief general counsel sign off due to a conflict of interest. 

Somehow no one noticed until a corporate governance audit of contracts and relationships of contractors with GM employees picked up the Ammann connection. GM’s CEO approved the transaction after-the-fact, and GM filed an 8-K with the SEC to reflect the information.  The disclosure insists that Mr. Ammann was unaware of the contract. 

We have no reason to doubt his word.  But shouldn’t the wife, as COO of a smaller ad firm, have mentioned a $600,000 contract with her husband’s company to her husband?  If the disclosure rules don’t work, then surely a little common sense combined with pillow talk would have.  One gets the idea that high-power marriages are not particularly full of responses to, “How was your day, dear?”  Surely the response would have been, “Well, we just landed a $600K contract with your company!”

Or perhaps Mrs. Ammann could have mentioned her CFO husband to her own company during the bid process? Or maybe then realized the need to mention it to hubby?

A conflict is a conflict is a conflict.  Conflicts are managed one of two ways:  (1) Don’t do it; or (2) Disclose it.  Disclosing after the fact always brings us out of the woodwork with all of our skepticism as high-power company leaders shrug their shoulders and urge us to believe their cherubic faces uttering, “Who knew?”

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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