A FRIEND told me a story the other day I hardly believed. Working in his father’s industrial workshop he noticed a man in a car parked on the verge outside. From early morning he photographed everyone arriving at the factory across the road, all the trucks coming and going, even the workers clocking in. Eventually my friend called the guy who owns the factory to tip him off and the “spy” was sent on his way.
Sounded like a tall story to me.
But I re-thought my response a week later when Lonrho Logistics won a final high court interdict against Toll Global Forwarding, a case which is all about business integrity.
Lonrho has an established name in freight forwarding, with a sizeable division handling perishables like fruit and flowers. TGF is part of an Australian company in the same general market though its perishable section has been minimal.
About a year ago Martin Brown, a senior member of Lonrho’s staff, started talking to TGF. Not just talking: he sang, providing what the court called “reams of confidential information” about Lonrho’s operations. TGF officials compiled multi-page shopping lists of confidential details that would be important in the plan to launch a beefed-up TGF perishables freight forwarding section. And Brown obliged.
TGF wanted him to base his “reports” on a 12 month period to “show seasonality”, with volumes by month, commodity – including fruit, vegetables, fish and general cargo – and destination. TGF wanted him to put together a structure chart of all staffing needs including back office support, and requested a summary of the amount invoiced to key customers each month as well.
Further requests for information followed and the details flowed across to TGF with exquisite particularity. Lonrho’s total monthly budgeted revenue for each branch for 2013 and 2014; monthly revenue from each branch shown by type of service rendered; a list of Lonrho’s invoices for October 2014 with complete customer information – it’s all there.
In one email Brown – still a trusted member of staff at Lonrho – noted he was attaching “some of the financials” he’d been able to obtain “without drawing too much attention”. It’s an extraordinary phrase, and you can imagine the strategies and subterfuge involved in the surreptitious production of these “financials” and other information.
*This story appears in full in the latest online edition of the Financial Mail. Read the full story here: