Gray moral motives for lying on travel expense reports

Gray moral motives for lying on travel expense reports

I was in an ethical dilemma when I heard the story that went viral this week about a Citibank analyst who was fired because he was caught paying the company for a two-pack lunch. the sandwich he had with his partner without permission… and then lied about it.

Analyst Szabolcs Fekete was fired for gross misconduct after initially claiming to have eaten two sandwiches, two coffees and two pasta dishes during a business trip to Amsterdam.

No, he’s not high. He later admitted that his partner had shared some meals. Ironically, Fekete, who specializes in financial crimes, later sued for unfair dismissal, pointing out that the compensation claims were well below the travel spending limit of 100 euros (106 euros). USD) per day set by the bank.

But a judge ruled in favor of the bank. “I discovered that this case has nothing to do with the amount of money involved. This case concerns the application for a refund and the applicant’s conduct thereafter,” the judge said.

There may be more to this story than meets the eye, but regardless, I have a bit of a crush on this guy. Aren’t we all tempted to “cheat” on our expense reports? It doesn’t seem difficult to do. Today, not all documents are reviewed by understaffed and overworked accounting departments.

And what’s more, we don’t get paid enough for the efforts we put in on behalf of our employers, right? So taking on a few meager additional costs — even if they aren’t necessarily more affordable — won’t make or break a bank, especially a giant like Citibank.

As an accountant, I have been on both sides of the equation – reviewing and submitting expenses – and I have to admit that there is definitely a gray line. Of course, there are people who are real scammers. I have witnessed multiple employees falsifying airline receipts, “losing” meal documentation, and submitting expense reports in clear violation of even the most gratuitous company policy.

In one case, an employee tried to get a refund for new shoes because he had lost one on a business trip, a request that was firmly denied and then my department have been joking for years.

But aren’t there some pretty questionable receipts? Can I get a refund for those three – yes three – old items I dropped at that group dinner in Vegas? What happens if I rent a BMW instead of a Honda? Can I use hotel wifi if I’m just streaming movies? Am I a criminal for doing this or is reimbursed travel expenses a job perk? Most employers I know structure their policies to comply with IRS regulations regarding deductible travel, entertainment, and meal expenses.

But unfortunately, this is becoming a difficult path to follow because the IRS regulations are so complex that the agency found it necessary to issue a 56-page memo in 2020 to try to clarify them . Not surprisingly, they only muddied the waters further.

Even my smartest accounting colleagues admit that their heads started spinning on page 16. Silicon Valley has tried to solve this problem with expense management software solutions—like Expensify, Concur, and ExpensePoint—that claim to make it easier to scan, text, email, code, and then send to the right people (or bots) for easier approval. . However, while it’s faster, it’s still an imperfect process and still no match for a seasoned road warrior. Did he really leave a $50 tip for housekeeping? Is a $4.25 Starbucks charge in the middle of the day different from the coffee she usually drinks when she’s not at a conference? There are people who are seasoned in inflating travel expenses and rest assured, they will always find a way to overcome the world’s most advanced AI algorithms and the world’s most powerful supercomputers. To me, cheating on travel expenses says a lot about a person.

In this case, relying on a lie until it is exposed seems like a big mistake. Maybe you think overcharging your employer is not just petty, it’s unethical, deceitful, and dishonest and the guy deserves to be fired? Or maybe the bank, with its billions of dollars, can save someone’s partner a sandwich – especially if it’s below the daily limit? Ultimately, dishonesty is dishonesty and business is built on trust.

So yeah, even if it requires reflection, I’d probably fire him anyway. Of course, if he invited me to lunch, that would be a different story.