When I was 36 years old, four business associates and myself formed a new corporation with the intent of providing project management services to government and commercial agencies.
Nearly ten years later, as Senior VP of Project Maintenance and Development, I one day discovered what appeared to be a monthly overbilling on our part to the client. This involved one of our larger Refuse Disposal contracts. The project had only been operating three or four months at the time.
I immediately approached the President of the company (who had done the set up and initial invoicing on this particular project), relayed my findings and expressed my obvious concerns. He explained to me his version on how this had developed and stated "we did not want to tell you because we knew you wouldn't approve". If that wasn't the understatement of all time.
Significant capital had been invested into the start-up of this contract and at this point jeopardizing its future in any way would have placed the future of the company itself in doubt. I now found myself in an incredibly awkward position and believing that knowing less would be best, I requested that he "make things right", and opted to take no action on my own.
Years later when it was discovered what had happened through an internal audit, I became living proof that when you stick your head in the sand, you may choke on the dirt. As part owner and a share holder of the company, that's precisely what happened.
I went through several years of lawyers, courts and all the accompanying emotions and embarrassment for having allowed myself to fall into this predicament. Eventually I realized that I had little choice but to concede to a plea agreement offer if I had any intention of bringing a sense of normalcy back into my life.
I will always regret not having had the guts to step up to the plate and taking responsibility into my own hands, regardless of the consequences. My past reputation as a loyal and ethical businessman had always been (and still is), extremely important to me.