Last week, Dell let it be known that it would bestow on its former CEO, Kevin Rollins, a payment of nearly $50 million for unexercised stock options. That was on top of a golden-parachute severance payment of $5 million that Rollins received when he was ousted six months earlier. This week Dell revealed that, under Rollins’s watch, it engaged in a high-level conspiracy to defraud investors by faking its earnings reports.
In April 2006, Rollins gave a speech at the University of Texas at Austin, sponsored by a campus religious group, in which he touted his and his company’s high ethical standards. The college newspaper reported on the speech:
Dell Computers uses strict ethical standards and whistle-blowing procedures to ensure that its employees maintain the highest standard of integrity, said Dell’s president and CEO in a speech on campus Tuesday night.
Kevin Rollins, who took over as president and CEO of Dell in 2004, said the company has a set of guidelines called “The Soul of Dell” that tells employees how to act ethically. The rules seem very simplistic and easy, but they take on new meaning in light of the exposure of misconduct at Enron Corporation, he said.
Dell operates on a “one strike, and you’re out” policy, Rollins said. If an employee commits one breach of ethics, he or she is fired. They are held to a higher standard than simply following the law, he said.
“If you want to operate another way, leave, because we do not want to have that at our company. We do not want to be tainted,” Rollins said.
Talk is cheap. If Kevin Rollins wants to maintain his own integrity as well as that of his former company, he should return the $50 million to the Dell shareholders who were cheated while he was in charge.