Case story

  • Argentina

OECD NCP Argentina - H. Recalde and H.W. Jofre vs. Accor Service

Argentina 2009

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Story

Accor Service is a French company providing services such as restaurant tickets and food vouchers to businesses and governments. The complaint involves the nature of lunch tickets/vouchers that are currently informally used by employers in Argentina to pay part of employees’ salary, but which are not formally included for calculations of employees’ holidays, sick leave and bonuses.

The complaint alleges that after a proposal to “formalise” the inclusion of the lunch vouchers in salaries (a measure that would likely reduce employers’ demand for the vouchers) was introduced into the national legislature, a representative of Accor Service approached the deputy sponsoring the proposal in November 2007 with offers of bribes of up to US$ 20 million if the deputy agreed to delay the proposal and change it so as to encourage, and even compel, more employers to purchase the vouchers. The deputy, who is also the complainant in this case, recorded the telephone calls and meetings with the Accor representative in which the representative offered the bribes, and is using the recordings as evidence both in a domestic legal case as well as the OECD Guidelines specific instance.

Outcome

On 27 February 2008, the Argentine NCP informed the Complainants that it had accepted the case as a specific instance. In the mean time, an Argentine court indicted both the Argentine manager of Accor Service and the middle-man who offered the bribes. The NCP forwarded the complaint to Accor, and asked the company if it would engage in an NCP-facilitated mediation process.

In May 2008 there was a change of personnel at the Argentine NCP, and the Complainants were invited to a meeting with the new NCP personnel.

The case was concluded with a negotiated agreement in March 2009. Part of the agreement between Accor Services and the Complainant was a contribution to an Argentinean NGO in support of its transparency and anti-corruption program. Accor chose to support the NGO Poder Ciudadano, which is the Argentine chapter of Transparency International. The amount of the contribution has not been made public, but it seems it was far from the Complainants’ request that the amount be equivalent to 5% of the bribe offered.

The NCP agreement further obliged the company to seek new employment possibilities for its workers (e.g. to a company of the same corporate group), provide an extra allowance for the workers who were affected by the change in the law, provide training to workers to reinsert in another job, continue providing medical assistance for 4 months after dismissal, and publish the outcome of the procedures in 2 local newspapers.

Accor has complied with the terms of the agreement but has complained that the Complainants have inappropriately publicised the case. The Complainants reaffirmed their right to speak publicly about the case after its conclusion, and had opposed a stipulation in the final statement that would have infringed on this right.

References

OECD Watch case story page: http://oecdwatch.org/cases/Case_129

Contributor(s): This article was modified by Kyle (3), Nicolaclayre (3), 128.103.18.192 (2), and Ejfturnbull (2).