Comment: Replacing the CEO is not enough to relaunch the corporate culture


After major corporate calamities, it is often the demonstration of commitment that matters more than what the company does with the CEO. Focusing on transparency will be the real determinant of success.

The German multinational Siemens has witnessed a series of corruption cases dating back more than a century. In 1914, for example, she was embroiled in a spectacular corruption case in connection with an agreement with the Imperial Japanese Navy.

More recently, in 2005, Siemens officials were exposed surreptitiously paying Greek government officials during the 2004 Summer Olympics.

The straw came in 2008 when investigations by the German and US governments, among others, resulted in fines totaling some 2.5 billion euros ($ 2.9 billion).

Put into action, the resumption of Siemens culture has been impressive. Strict anti-corruption rules and processes were quickly put in place, and the number of compliance staff increased from 86 to 500.

In addition, Siemens hired a former Interpol official to head its investigative unit and a co-founder of the watchdog Transparency International to serve as an advisor.

Compare that with German auto giant Volkswagen’s response to the 2015 diesel emissions scandal. When it was first revealed that emissions tests may have been tampered with, Volkswagen initially refused, insisting the fact that the discrepancies were just technical issues.

It was only in the face of compelling data that the leaders admitted that there had been deliberate deception.

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