Done any deals with Vodafone? Have a care. For it looks like the giant mobile operator is worried that murky goings-on have been occurring within the 60-strong property department. The details in yesterday's Sunday Times are brief: Buy Vodafone is said to be investigating allegations that a number of staff dealing with the letting of more than 3000 properties in the UK and abroad have been taking payments from landlords and/or agents.
This issue may or may not be raised at Vodafone's AGM tomorrow. Chairman Sir John Bond has trouble enough with shareholders. Many are fed up that the stock price has languished well below the value of the assets of this huge business for at least five years. But if someone does get the chance to pipe up, the question should be: "Sir John, will the company call in the police if you uncover proof that your managers took bribes in exchange for agreeing leases?"
Vodafone half-admits the issue, saying that in a company of its size "there might be a number of investigations underway." So it looks like they have uncovered a problem in the dealings with hundreds of small agents and landlords. It would explain why the company said in November that it was to set up a panel of four obviously honest global brokers. Colliers, Cushman & Wakefield, DTZ and Jones Lang LaSalle were appointed two months ago.
And the answer to that question about bringing in the police? Anyone who did give a brown envelope to a Vodafone employee is unlikely face a judge.For is highly doubtful that Sir John will add to his troubles by calling the fraud squad.. A visit from Kroll or one of the big accountancy firms is far more likely. If Vodafone is presented with evidence of wrongdoing, they are much more likely to deal with it internally than by dialling 999. Relax, a bit.