Listen, I know I post a lot about procurement-related problems involving Apple. But don’t get the wrong idea – it’s not that Apple’s procurement is bad, it’s just that when you’re the hottest company out there, a lot of people are gunning for you and the challenges are perhaps greater than they are elsewhere.
Apple’s procurement team does a fantastic job of supporting the company’s innovation and speed-to-market. Actually, you’d probably be hard-pressed to find a procurement team that performs better in those respects.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the latest procurement problem du jour at Apple. Esteemed SPSM and former NLPA Dedicated Member of the Month, Paul Salisbury, tipped me off to a fascinating story involving Apple and its continuing struggle to protect its uber-valuable intellectual property.
The above-linked article describes how an executive of an Apple supplier shared confidential information (including plans for the iPad before its launch) with a research firm for whom he “consulted” (read: accepted bribes from under the veil of “consulting”). Apparently, the problem with payoffs in exchange for insider information is big. The article says that the US federal government is investigating “‘expert networks’ that solicit employees offering insider information and provide that nonpublic information to Wall Street money managers to facilitate insider trading. A number of arrests have been made over the firm’s collection of insider information on Apple, Dell, AMD, and other tech companies.”
Now, I’m sure that Apple had a confidentiality agreement in place with this supplier. But, obviously, it wasn’t enough.
If you’re a procurement professional for an innovative tech company, what are you doing beyond the traditional confidentiality agreement to ensure that your company’s intellectual property and trade secrets are being protected? If your answer is “nothing else,” I’d suggest you investigate some other options sooner rather than later.
There’s money being paid out there for information. And it seems like there is always going to be someone with shady ethics out there eager to accept it.
To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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