www.colettesymanowitz.com

Perspectives on entrepreneurship, MBA-related issues, networking, personal branding, technology, investing, education and more…


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Protecting whistle-blowers in the digital age

Speaking at the #ACFESA Africa conference this week on protecting whistle-blowers in the digital age. Lots of interesting other talks. Great to see the move to digital happening more and more in all fraud-related areas – we need to be using smarter tools to fight smarter fraudsters. https://blog.fraudcracker.com/digitally-protecting-whistle-blowers/

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Call for forensic investigation into farmworker equity schemes

When 241 farmworkers became shareholders in the Langwyde Werknemers Trust 10 years ago, they were led to believe their lives would improve. Instead, many still live in dilapidated homes and are struggling to survive because they haven’t received any dividends from the company. The workers believe farm owners are exploiting them to benefit from BEE and get extra state funding. Find out more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/call-for-forensic-investigation-into-farmworker-equity-schemes/


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VBS theft, money laundering & life’s little luxuries: Julius Malema’s time of spending dangerously

The lavish lifestyle and political aspirations of EFF president Julius Malema were funded from the R16m robbed from VBS Mutual Bank. Scorpio’s investigations show how the life savings of the poor and vulnerable VBS-depositors, plus municipalities around South Africa, paid for school-related expenses for Malema’s son, and Gucci, Louis Vuitton and tailored suits from designer Linda Makhanya, a Polokwane party venue and the EFF. https://blog.fraudcracker.com/vbs-theft-money-laundering-lifes-little-luxuries-julius-malemas-time-of-spending-dangerously/


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Inside entrepreneurs’ IP theft fight with Nedbank

Entrepreneurs Thandile Jwambi and Nicolas Kutumane are accusing Nedbank of stealing their card-blocking invention. In this real-life version of David vs Goliath, do the underdog entrepreneurs have a case? Find out more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/inside-entrepreneurs-ip-theft-fight-with-nedbank/


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Does doing the same work over and over again make you less ethical?

Managers worry about staff breaking the rules. And rightly so. Working on the same task can lead to more rule-breaking and taking shortcuts. This can be a problem if your people do the same work everyday. For a simple solution, read https://blog.fraudcracker.com/does-doing-the-same-work-over-and-over-again-make-you-less-ethical/ #rulebreaking #unethical


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Millions of dirty Bobroff cash forfeited, thanks to NPA

South Africa’s NPA Asset Forfeiture Unit has gotten a court order forfeiting over R103m of Ronald and Darren Bobroff’s crime-tainted cash held in bank accounts in Israel. They fled SA for Australia, facing charges of fraud and theft. In 2018, they were on Interpol’s globally wanted list. The NPA said the huge forfeiture order was thanks to excellent cooperation between the SA and Israeli authorities. https://blog.fraudcracker.com/millions-of-dirty-bobroff-cash-forfeited-thanks-to-npa/


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How Uber uses psychological tricks to push its drivers’ buttons

Uber carried out an eye-opening, somewhat shady experiment in behavioural science to subtly entice its independent workforce of drivers to maximise its growth. If the drivers knew how Uber was manipulating their behaviour to grow Uber’s revenue, would they have taken part? https://blog.fraudcracker.com/how-uber-uses-psychological-tricks-to-push-its-drivers-buttons/


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Make your meetings a safe space for honest conversation

To have better meetings means leading with mutual respectful, inclusivity, and creating a space safe enough for your people to speak their minds. You can increase the freedom, candour, and quality of conversation in your meetings by focusing on 2 key areas: giving permission and creating safety. https://blog.fraudcracker.com/make-your-meetings-a-safe-space-for-honest-conversation/


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When fraud meets advanced tech

For years, auditors have focused on internal controls to see if the control environment works effectively to reduce the risk of fraud. As standards have evolved to focus more on fraud, so has tech. Yes, innovations such as AI, robotic process automation (RPA) and blockchain may help to detect fraud; but what if they also allow fraudsters to commit harder-to-detect crimes? https://blog.fraudcracker.com/when-fraud-meets-advanced-tech/


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Whistle-blowers are a sign of healthy companies

More whistles blown are a sign of a healthy company, not a sick one. Firms whose hotlines get used more, tend to be more profitable and have less legal exposure, with less damage to brand reputation and stock price. High usage shows open communication between staff and management (and a belief that issues raised will be resolved), rather than real trouble. https://blog.fraudcracker.com/whistle-blowers-are-a-sign-of-healthy-companies/


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Social media: a rising threat to journalists’ freedom

Social media has made democracies more democratic by giving everyone a voice. But it also makes cyberbullies with large followings dangerous enough to make the lives of journalists so unbearable, that they quit. In a worrying trend called cyber-misogyny, women reporters are often the targets of scathing, sexually humiliating, online abuse. How do we protect these courageous reporters who risk their lives in the pursuit of truth for us? https://blog.fraudcracker.com/social-media-a-rising-threat-to-journalists-freedom/


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Thank you to all the whistleblowers out there

Yesterday 30-July was Whistleblower Appreciation Day in the US, while 23-June was World Whistleblower Day. It’s our way of saying a big thank you to the people with the courage to speak out against corruption, fraud and wrongdoing. Let’s celebrate them and protect them! They make the world a better place for us and our kids. https://blog.fraudcracker.com/thank-you-to-all-the-whistleblowers-out-there/


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Ghost workers could kill your company

Are you paying salaries to people who don’t work for you, or who don’t exist? Ghost worker fraud on payroll is very hard to detect, especially in bigger companies without proper controls. It can lead to substantial financial losses, killing your company over time. So how can you stop it happening? https://blog.fraudcracker.com/ghost-workers-could-kill-your-company/


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Facebook slapped with record $5bn fine over privacy breaches

The FTC, a US government agency, has slapped tech giant Facebook with a record $5bn fine over privacy breaches – 20x more than any privacy fine imposed so far worldwide. Facebook must pay the fine, submit to new restrictions and a revised corporate structure, and set up strong new mechanisms from board-level down that will hold the firm and its execs accountable for their decisions about users’ privacy. Find out more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/facebook-slapped-with-record-5bn-fine-over-privacy-breaches/


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Ethical leadership means first do no harm, in business and in life

We can’t expect others to do the right thing when we continue to do wrong. When balancing the needs of the 4 stakeholders in any business, a guiding mantra is this: we serve the customers, not the shareholders; we reward the shareholders; we support our staff to serve the customers, and we improve our communities. Read more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/ethical-leadership-means-first-do-no-harm-in-business-and-in-life/


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A R1.2bn pot of toxic soup at EOH

Eight people. That’s all. Just eight people out of EOH’s staff of 11,500 put the entire firm at risk through a systematic process of fraud, corruption and bribery that saw R1.2bn of shady flow out of the company between 2014 and 2017. EOH believes it has stopped the rot. Only time will tell. https://blog.fraudcracker.com/a-r1-2bn-pot-of-toxic-soup-at-eoh/


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Forensic probe uncovers R1.2bn in suspicious transactions at EOH

According to an update today, law firm ENSafrica has found evidence of and is investigating R1.2bn in suspicious transactions at EOH. These may be valid transactions, theft or bribery and corruption payments. Yesterday EOH announced the resignations of 3 top execs. Find out more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/forensic-probe-uncovers-r1-2bn-in-suspicious-transactions-at-eoh/


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4 ways lying becomes the norm at a company

How did lying become the norm at firms like VW? Four organisation-wide factors predict if people in a company will lie or not: lack of strategic clarity, unjust accountability systems, poor organisational governance, weak cross-functional collaboration. Find out more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/4-ways-lying-becomes-the-norm-at-a-company/


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Medical aid schemes caught in a vice between fraud and claims of racial profiling

Fraud against medical aid schemes is a big problem worldwide. But in South Africa, there is another aspect to the issue. And that is race. An organisation for medical professionals has accused SA’s top medical aids of racial profiling in their fight against medical aid fraud. Find out more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/medical-aid-schemes-caught-in-a-vice-between-fraud-and-claims-of-racial-profiling/


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Are you ready to fight fraud?

Strengthening the internal control system and the control environment will help reduce the likelihood of fraud happening as well as the impact of fraud, if it occurs. 49% of respondents in the 2018 PwC Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey said their companies had experienced fraud or economic crime, compared to 36% in 2016. Read more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/are-you-ready-to-fight-fraud/


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This is a WhatsApp whistleblowing message. I don’t know how else to do it

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In 2016, out of desperation while on a pilgrimage in France, former SAA treasurer Cynthia Stimpel sent a WhatsApp to National Treasury, warning them of a dirty deal in the making at SAA. It was ignored. They had blocked her at every turn, but Stimpel was relentless in her efforts to stop a R15b cash-raising deal from being pulled off outside of due process – and with the help of BnP Capital as transaction adviser for R225m – while South African banks could do it for +/-R85m. Stimpel was fired for standing up to corruption. Find out more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/this-is-a-whatsapp-whistleblowing-message-i-dont-know-how-else-to-do-it/


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KPMG fallout: cheating allegations raise new questions

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After new allegations of KPMG cheating on internal training tests, audit committees now have questions about their external auditors’ own adherence to standards: are controls in place, are they well-designed, and are they operating effectively? Find out more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/kpmg-fallout-cheating-allegations-raise-new-questions/


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Record number of CEOs fired for ethical lapses

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A record 18% of CEOs in the top 2500 global public companies were replaced in 2018, with 39% fired for ethical lapses. This is according to a PwC study released May2019, It’s the 1st time in the study’s history that ethical lapses led the causes of CEO turnover. Read more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/record-number-of-ceos-fired-for-ethical-lapses/


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Create a workplace where everyone feels comfortable speaking up

It’s vital for employees to voice their concerns when they see something worrying or unethical. But how do you make everyone understand that their voice is valued? Find out at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/create-a-workplace-where-everyone-feels-comfortable-speaking-up/


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Survey finds fraud causing financial loss in almost half of businesses

undefined Occupational fraud and abuse are causing financial losses in half of all businesses, a survey from Mazars finds. The average loss per company surveyed, exceeded €10,000 (US$11,167 or ZAR160,362). Read more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/survey-finds-fraud-causing-financial-loss-in-almost-half-of-firms/


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Bullying and sexual harassment rife in the legal profession

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Bullying and sexual harassment are rampant in the legal profession. This is according to the International Bar Association (IBA)’s global survey of nearly 7,000 legal professionals in 135 countries. Read more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/bullying-and-sexual-harassment-rife-in-the-legal-profession/


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If your company is going through a public scandal should you leave?

If you’re working at a Gupta-tainted company like KPMG, and they’re going through a public scandal, here’s the big question: should you stick it out, or should you leave? Find out more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/if-your-company-is-going-through-a-public-scandal-should-you-leave/


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Theranos whistleblower Erika Cheung on what went wrong and what’s next

Whistleblower Erika Cheung was key to the spectacular downfall of Silicon Valley blood-testing darling, Theranos. She stayed only 7 months before exiting, but not before uncovering massive fraud in Theranos’ blood-testing process. Read more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/theranos-whistleblower-erika-cheung-on-what-went-wrong-and-whats-next/


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Sterling’s dark, dirty secret: a culture of sexual harassment and unequal pay for women

For 1000s of women, Sterling Inc., America’s largest jewellery retailer, was rife with sexual harassment, unequal pay and discrimination. But how did such a big, publicly traded firm keep this a secret for 14 years? Find out more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/sterlings-dark-dirty-secret-a-culture-of-sexual-harassment-and-unequal-pay-for-women/


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P&G puts ad platforms like Facebook, Google on notice for fraud, harmful content, etc.

P&G blasted Facebook, Google, etc. for fraud, privacy breaches, harmful content next to ads, etc. P&G which spends billions of dollars on marketing products every year, wants to move its money to services that are free of toxic content. Find out more at
https://blog.fraudcracker.com/pg-puts-ad-platforms-like-facebook-google-on-notice-for-fraud-offensive-content-etc/


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Are patents worth it? Lessons from the $9bn Theranos fraud

In the wake of massive fraud charges, Theranos went from Silicon Valley darling to spectacular shut down in 2018. Yet in 2019 Theranos got 5 new patents! We need patents to boost innovation, but if they are granted to unethical firms, are patents really worth it? Find out more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/are-patents-worth-it-lessons-from-the-9bn-theranos-fraud/


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Protect yourself against white-collar crime

Thanks to research from GIBS (the Gordon Institute of Business Science, South Africa), companies can use the insights of convicted white-collar criminals to help protect themselves against the growing risk of white-collar crime. Find out more at https://blog.fraudcracker.com/protect-yourself-against-white-collar-crime/


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Today is World Voice Day

Today 16th April is World Voice Day. Your voice matters! This is your day to make your voice heard, to not keep quiet about wrongdoing that you’ve seen, so we can stop perpetrators and make the world a better place for our kids. That’s exactly why we created FraudCracker.com https://blog.fraudcracker.com/today-is-world-voice-day/


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Running a school like it’s a business

Elandspark school pic

This article was published in the 09-October-2014 issue of Finweek Magazine

As tech entrepreneurs, my husband and I are passionate about raising our two kids to be entrepreneurs. So we grab every opportunity we find to teach them about business. Sadly, however, the creators of South Africa’s school curricula don’t share our passion for entrepreneurship. Other than theoretical business subjects like Business Studies, Accounting, Consumer Studies, Economics, and Economic Management Studies, there is hardly any entrepreneurial training happening in most of South Africa’s schools. Elandspark School is a refreshing exception and a shining example of how to run a school like a business. Continue reading


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Great to gone to great again: bouncing back

lego-story-animatedThis article was published in the 2-October-2014 issue of Finweek Magazine

Markets change. To stay on top, you need to change with them. Economist Joseph Schumpeter spoke about the “perennial gale of creative destruction”, where technological transformation and visionary entrepreneurs give birth to new things that annihilate old things, only to see the next generation obliterate those new things. Some of the most well-known companies in history no longer appear on the Fortune 500 list, having tumbled from great to good to gone from the list—companies like Kodak, Chrysler and Warner Lambert. And, out of the 500 organisations that made it onto the first list in 1955, only 71 were still on the Fortune 500 list in 2008. However, the forces of creative destruction are not unavoidable: not every company must inevitably fall and die. After all, multinationals like Johnson & Johnson, GE and Procter & Gamble have been around for over a hundred years and their positions in the Fortune 500 have climbed. And companies like Lego and Xerox plummeted from their pinnacles, but then turned themselves around from the brink of destruction to become great once again. How did they do it? It comes down to innovation, getting back to basics, and continuously adapting to changing customer needs and changing markets. Continue reading


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Failing forward: How failing can help you succeed

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This article was published in the 18-September-2014 issue of Finweek Magazine

Back in 2008, GIBS asked a handful of MBA alumni who were internet entrepreneurs to share our biggest learnings. In all honesty, I don’t remember much about that night or what I talked about to that classroom of aspiring entrepreneurs. But the one thing I do remember as clearly as today, is the three words spoken by my classmate Justin Spratt, at the time running IS Labs. He said: “Launch, then iterate.” His sage advice came long before the global entrepreneurial Lean Start-up movement made this idea trendy. And I still swear by it to this day.

Justin explained “Launch, then iterate” along these lines: get your minimum working product out there fast, get customers using it as quickly as possible, and tweak and improve as you get their feedback. Don’t delay your launch for the day when your offering is perfect, because it will never be perfect, which means you will never launch. And that artificial goal you’re defining as perfection, may be something your customers won’t even want, let alone pay for. So don’t waste time or money building something that you haven’t yet tried out in a scaled-down form with your customers. Continue reading


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The glass is always half-full

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This article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 21-Aug-2014 issue

Winston Churchill famously said: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” We’ve all been through tough times at some point in our lives. We wouldn’t be human if we hadn’t. For the more resilient ones among us, it is our ability to see the positive in negative situations that helps us get through challenges and to overcome adversity.

I’m a strong believer that things happen because we’re meant to learn from them. If we didn’t have that negative hump to climb over, we wouldn’t recognise the positive staring us right in the face. I like to think of it as the universe (or G-d, depending on your beliefs) throwing you a curveball to test your bounce-back ability and how you can grow from it. And if that setback didn’t happen now, it would have to happen sooner or later, because it was placed in our path so that we could learn from it.

So the big question is: in tough times, instead of dwelling on the negative, shouldn’t we concentrate on how our setbacks transform us and transform our lives for the better? Shouldn’t we seek out the positive and what we’re meant to learn from difficult situations? Continue reading