A man starts work as financial controller at a big company.
It’s a good job. The pay is good, his boss (the Finance Director) likes him and the people who work for him do their jobs well.
A few years later, it’s time for the FD to retire. The financial controller applies for the FD’s job, and gets it. He’s very happy.
At the old FD’s retirement party, the financial controller asks his old boss if he has any advice for him in his new role. The old FD says “I thought you’d ask me that. Take these two envelopes. If ever the excrement hits the fan and the walls come down, open the first envelope. It will tell you what to do. If after that, something else happens, well then you open the second envelope.”
“Thanks”, says the new FD and settles into his new office.
It’s a nice office with a big wooden desk and an attractive secretary.
A couple of years later, the auditors spot something…
Looks like a potentially significant fraud going back years that really should have been spotted. The new FD gets stressed, but then he remembers the advice of the old FD, and he opens up his desk drawer and gets out the first envelope.
Nervously, he opens the first envelope. In it is a small piece of paper. On it are written two simple words…
So he does. He’s able to convince the auditors that the fraud dated back to his predecessor’s time and that controls are now much tighter and internal audit much more effective.
The auditors believe him and he sighs with relief.
Several years later, and after several good bonuses, the FD is now a rich man. He’s got a big house in the country, he drives a Ferrari. He married the attractive secretary. What could possibly go wrong to ruin his life?
Then there is a new audit manager.
The new audit manager is really thorough and good at her job. She finds evidence of a major accounting fraud. A complicated one involving SPVs and hedging and all that kind of stuff.
The FD is deep in it now. He doesn’t know what to do.
But then he remembers the advice given him by the old FD all those years ago and he remembers the second envelope.
He rummages around at the bottom of his desk drawer and finds the old second envelope, right where he left it.
Shaking, he takes it out and opens it.
In it is a piece of paper.
On the piece of paper, written in the old FD’s handwriting are three words…
“Write two envelopes…”