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A co-worker needed a new iMac for his desk (the 27-inch model). He purchased it with the company credit card, but it was delivered to his home. He didn't bring it in to work for about three months. Finally, he was told to bring it in, and two days later he walked in with an un-packaged imac under his arm, and that is now on his desk.

However, I noticed the edges of the iMac were thick, and that it had a slot for a DVD drive. And I know that Apple hasn't made that type of imac for about three years. Based on this, I am certain that this is not a new computer.

If I'm correct and his actions are revealed, I'm certain he'll be fired.

Also, the more I think about it, I wonder if he purchased a new one, or changed to a used one and I didn't hear about that. I don't think so, but I don't know for sure.

Should reveal this information? Should I ask my co-worker about it first?

Should I ask someone who would know about the new versus used question? The person I ask would know, but if it was supposed to be new, then the info is out because she would definitely confront him.

  • 4
    Are you willing to ask, "I thought you got a new mac?" – user8365 Sep 22 '15 at 8:46
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    I assume the company has got all the purchase receipts, which should clearly specify which model was purchased, which can then be compared with the model on the coworker's desk? – gnasher729 Sep 22 '15 at 12:20
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    If he's willing to steal from the company, what do you suppose he is willing to do to a co-worker? – Nolo Problemo Sep 25 '15 at 22:39
  • Is a slightly older iMac a hill you are willing to die on? If you report him and it turns out you were wrong, you could get in all kinds of trouble, and even if you were right and the company considers it not a big deal - nobody likes snitches. – mag Dec 8 '15 at 13:38
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  • Are you his manager?
  • Do you have any authority, financial responsibiity etc with regard to procurement?
  • Are you 100% sure that you are right (and that, for example, he couldn't have simply bought an iMac, brand new, from a supplier carrying older models)?
  • ... and do you have evidence of this?
  • Is there any significant loss to the company, if this is indeed the case? Or is it actually a minor difference between models and either will allow him to undertake his job?
  • Are you entirely certain that the model he brought in was not current at the time of purchase (3 months earlier?) or potentially end-of-line
  • Do you know whether he charged the credit card for a brand new iMac?

It's a very difficult question, and morally I would say that if you are sure and have evidence then you have a responsibility (morally, and potentially legally) to bring it forward.

If you're not sure, however, and it's not a responsibility intrinsic to your role, then I'd suggest that perhaps it's not your place. If the company is issuing credit cards it presumably has some kind of audit process which should be checking on these things. The fact that they took three months to insist company property was returned to the office is strange, but if anything I'd expect this to mean that any issues would be more likely to be picked up on.

At the end of the day, I think the only real advice is to follow your own moral compass. If you feel it is wrong enough to be worth reporting on the strength of your evidence, do so.

  • 1
    If the computer is indeed three years old, then it will die three years earlier than a brand new one. In case of an iMac, the value will be about half the value of a new one. – gnasher729 Sep 22 '15 at 12:22
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    I'd disagree that it will die three years earlier is any real impact - few companies routinely keep hardware until end of life. But I'm trying to avoid specifics here: it's a question of morals and evidence, not value. – Jon Story Sep 22 '15 at 13:06
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    @gnasher729 Apple sells refurbished iMacs from 2012 apple.com/shop/product/G0MS1LL/A/…, and it's not half the value of a new one. Nor does hardware longevity work as simply as you suggest. – Chan-Ho Suh Sep 22 '15 at 16:46
  • Which also backs up the pint that without evidence, the OP may end up causing a problem when management were well aware that the machine was a refurbished model – Jon Story Sep 22 '15 at 17:26
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You should either stay out of it, or talk to him first to make sure you've got enough facts. You might be able to persuade him to come clean on his own and make it right. And it would reflect badly on you if you make an accusation that turns out to be false.

If you decide to find out for sure whether he's doing something sneaky...

I'm in a management role, so I would definitely ask him about it and have him explain why company property sat at his house for 3 months, and have him show me the "About this Mac" report on his desktop to confirm it is the Mac the company has paid for.

You may not have the same relationship with the person, and so you may not be in a position to confront him. However, here's what I would do: "Hey Bill, that's a sweet iMac. Is that an early 2013 model? I notice it's not the skinny-edged version like I've seen at the store." See how he responds. It's very likely that he'll prove to you that he is untrustworthy in anything that matters.

A word of caution, though. Be careful and use good judgement if you decide confront him. It may spoil a workplace dynamic and you have no way of predicting who will benefit more (or less) from the new dynamic. And if he is known to be highly reactive, you may not want to provoke him.

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    Good strategy :) If the OP is determined to follow it up, then I would definitely start with casually asking the person about it. Depending on your relationship with him, you may even find he conspiratorally tells you what he's done. Then it's up to you what you do about it from there. – Jane S Sep 22 '15 at 0:44
  • I would be cautious about using this approach. If the alleged perp is innocent then all will be fine. If, on the other hand, they are committing fraud they will be finely tuned to this line of questioning and will immediately go defensive. If they are subsequently "called out" by management they will know immediately how it came to be that management suspected a problem. Of course it might not go like that, but is it worth taking the risk? Either ignore it, or anonymously inform management or HR and let them investigate. – Marv Mills Sep 22 '15 at 12:48
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    If you believe a co-worker is possibly committing fraud, you should not ignore it, even if they do not report to you. Report it to a manager (anonymously if your company allows that). They can easily verify if it is the actual machine from serial number vs invoice. The invoice they can get from Apple directly as they own the credit card. – Simon O'Doherty Sep 23 '15 at 7:02
  • Certainly if the colleague involves you in a conspiracy, then your position is weaker if you choose to keep it quiet and it later all comes out anyway. If you're ultimately going to mind your beeswax and let this go, it's best to let it go completely and immediately, and pretend you weren't smart enough to notice anything odd, rather than to involve yourself in his schemes. This is all assuming you have no proper authority to decide on the company's behalf whether the issue can be ignored. If you're senior enough to forgive him then the decision is another matter. – Steve Jessop Dec 8 '15 at 13:43
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You should anonymously report this to whomever this employee reports to or to finance that signed off on the expense report, that you feel he has cheated the company (and indirectly you) out of several thousand dollars in equipment.

Just report the facts. The machine was ordered several months ago and shipped to the employees home. It was 3 months before he brought it in after some prodding (you didn't say who prodded him, but you may want elaborate on that in the report).

Then when finally brought into the office, it's obviously not the computer that was purchased but a different model (and likely different serial number than on the invoice he was reimbursed for).

3

You could pursue the truth by telling him that you have an interest in purchasing an older or refurb model yourself, since the newer iMacs are out of your price range. You could ask him how he found that one, which website, how much it cost, how long it took to ship, what did the box look like, etc, but just frame it ask a question that you are interested in possibly purchasing something like that for yourself. That way, you will learn more about everything you need to know, but not come across as though you are confronting him. He may reveal more about the truth, in this manner.

Whether or not he stole from the company is not something you can control, and without much information you don't have too much convicting evidence than these facts which could be coincidental. Maybe your company is cheap.

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If the primary ethical concern here is, "is it OK that thieves are punished", then I think the answer for almost everyone is "yes, that's OK". If he really is attempting to steal a computer then you should rest easy that you have no general responsibility to avoid actions that result in him being fired for that. All the complexity lies in whether and when it's OK for suspected thieves to be reported: if he's not stealing then he's almost certainly going to survive scrutiny, but there is some harm done by false suspicions flying around.

I know that Apple hasn't made that type of imac for about three years. Based on this, I am certain that this is not a new computer.

It doesn't really matter whether it's new or old, that's just what happened to make you suspicious. And it doesn't matter whether you're certain or not, because it's not your job to decide whether to fire him.

Therefore, if you're going to report it at all then you should merely report what it is about the machine that makes you think it's not the one he used the company credit card to purchase. Don't say "it's not the same machine", say "I think it's an old model, and I am telling this so you can look into it if that troubles you". Report this to the person who's responsible for deciding whether this is worth further investigation, or to someone else who can report it them: whatever structure your company has in place. If you need more detail about your company's arrangements consult staff handbook, your line manager, etc.

You may be able to report anonymously if you're concerned about retribution (in which case, you also need to figure out how without asking anyone). A lot of people are very hostile to informants, even among those who directly benefit from the information. There's probably no need in this case for your testimony of what you've witnessed, so a completely anonymous tip-off might do the job. Either it's the right computer or it isn't, and that's established by comparing the object to the receipt, not by what you've seen or your knowledge of Macs. Frequently a company will have a not-really-anonymous procedure for reporting suspicions of wrongdoing, where the person you report to promises to keep your name out of it, but they know who you are. In that case you should also consider whether you trust that person.

As to whether to report it at all: this really depends whether you feel that part of your job is to protect the company's property in general as opposed to only following direct orders. This depends on company culture. There are companies where everybody's either thieving or turning a blind eye to it, and there are companies where taking a computer is the kind of thing employees would be willing to help prevent. I'm used to the latter, but not every company inspires much desire in its employees to look out for it. Think about what kind of company you're in, and where on the spectrum you want to be, and act accordingly. Ethically the issues are whether you feel a responsibility to your employer, and whether you feel a responsibility to your colleague (or if not personally to that colleague, a general responsibility not to make accusations). And if both, which outweighs the other. Very few people have sufficiently simple responsibilities either to say, "I would always report suspected theft no matter the cost", or "I would never report suspected theft under any circumstances", and so you need to make your ethical consideration on the details of the case.

One possible alternative to reporting it, is to take the matter into your own hands by challenging your colleague with what you've observed (some of the answers offer indirect ways of doing this rather than a direct accusation). This might be enough to prompt him to bring the real machine in. However, I don't really recommend this firstly because it opens you to retribution, secondly because it involves making a threat to report him, and thirdly because it involves offering to keep the matter you yourself provided it's settled to your own satisfaction. Any of those might be justifiable to give your colleague a chance to be honest, but it puts you in rather a difficult position.

There may well be no need to do anything even if you do feel a general responsibility to the company rather than your colleague. Someone told him to bring it in. They are presumably already on the case, and will be taking steps to figure out for themselves whether their instruction was followed or not. You might reasonably decide that they don't need your help to do their job, and leave it to them to do whatever checks they feel are appropriate. They have eyes, they can see what you can see, but they have more information than you: they know what he claimed to have bought. So, you might reasonably say there's a difference between this case, where someone else is already dealing with it, and a different case where you caught him loading a truck out of the company warehouse and you're the only one who knows he did it.

Whatever you decide, you should not investigate this yourself, or try to chase up whether the computer he bought was supposed to be new or old. What you observe with your own eyes is potentially yours to report. His expense receipts are not your business even if he really is stealing. For that matter, even if the machine isn't the right one, it's not your business why that is. For all you know he has confessed confidentially, the books have been balanced, and the matter is already dealt with. In which case even if you're correct, you'll report it and never hear anything more about it.

Finally, it's just about conceivable, depending on jurisdiction and the details of the case, that you could be committing a criminal offence of "accessory after the fact" by choosing not to report it. I'm not saying you certainly would, just that it's a possibility. In your defence, the fact that you don't know what computer he's supposed to have bought means you don't actually know he's done anything wrong. And, while the law is not the same as ethics, you still in my opinion have some right to include in your consideration the weight of the consequences for yourself of what you do. You should at least think about whether you would be fired if, somewhere down the line, this guy gets found out and fired and somebody figures out that you knew what you know and chose not to report it. This is just the flip side of considering the retribution you might face if you do inform.

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The Machiavelli inside me wants to tell you to take irrefutable evidence and keep quiet. Maybe one day your boss tells you "sorry, but we haven't got enough money to keep both of you employed, so somebody needs to go and I have to decide which one", and you answer "surely that would be the one with the stolen computer".

(Which is the problem whenever people do something dodgy; it may be that nobody cares today, but if they need an excuse to fire someone, there's the excuse).

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