How far back are you accountable? 1732

  • I have just received an e-mail from a previous employer requesting the return of computer equipment, mobile phone and the payback of certain ‘entertaining’ expenses due to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
    I left this employment in May 2001, having been employed as a Director for three years.
    The ‘return’ of the above is nonsense, as it was all handed over at the time of leaving, but am I liable for any ‘entertainment’ expenses?
    In fact, could this be a wind up? If not, will the previous employer have to prove what is to be returned?
    Any genuine responses would be appreciated.

  • Hi and welcome to the forums 🙂
    As a starting point, I’m uncertain if an employer can collect these types of charges from 5 years ago? However, SOX wasn’t even signed into law until over one year after you left your position and it actually took a year or two later for compliancy to begin.
    SOX - Basic Information
    On July 30, 2002, President George W. Bush signed it into law …

    I don’t think SOX could be used as a basis for expense recovery in 2001? As another test, is your former company a public company, that’s listed on the stock exchange, (as SOX has to do with ensuring accurate financial reporting to the SEC, but doesn’t apply to private or small companies)?
    If you have a friend in the legal profession, it’s worth touching base with them to see where you stand. I’d also recommend documenting your case in writing if your employer persists (e.g., esp. if you’ve turned in older equipment).
    Finally, be careful of email scams that are out there, as phishing and other attacks are more prevelant than ever. If you’re sure it’s legitimate (e.g., from someone you know), then they may be attempting to contact you. While it’s good to do homework on this, I might be inclined to avoid direct contact, until you hear from them other than by just an email message alone.

  • I agree with Harry. Unless you receive a certified letter or a phone call from someone you can verify works for your former company, ignore the request.
    This is not a Sarbanes-Oxley issue, but rather a legal employment issue. My guess is that (if this is a valid request), there was an audit of officer T-and-E expenses and the company is trying to recover what it thinks is owed to them in as easy a manner as possible. It could also be a phishing expedition as Harry suggested.
    Sit back and wait it out.
    Of course, any legal advice from those on this forum is worth what you paid for it 😉

  • My initial reaction involved was to give them a two word response involving sex and travel. But perhaps that wouldn’t be the most diplomatic route.
    The other advice given is fair. There is no real justification for this request under SOx - although that doesn’t stop people using it to try and achieve their desired outcome.
    If you have returned equipment but they have no record of it then that’s hardly your concern. Unless you’ve deliberately deceived them when leaving the company the onus is really on the employer to get back all equipment that they should at the time you leave . The value of 5 year old computer equipment is also questionable.
    As for expenses - they should be authorised before they’re paid. If your ex-employer has subsequently decided that they shouldn’t have reimbursed them then that’s just tough on them - unless of course your expenses claim has involved some attempt to disguise their true nature.
    Lastly, email is a wholly inappropriate medium for pursuing something like this and no professional organisation would do so. That said there are many unprofessional folks out there so you never know. Personally I would definitely not continue the discussion by email.
    Perhaps your next step depends on how you left things with them 5 years ago. If the relationship was good (actually even if it wasn’t) I would follow up with a phone call to see what it is that they’re really after. This should flush out if there is any scam element. If it is a genuine request then I would politely inform them (to the extent that it is true) that a) all equipment was returned and b) all expenses reimbursed were in line with policies in operation at the time and putting the onus on them to prove otherwise and do so in a formal manner.

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