NBN Co chief Mike Quigley said today that neither he nor CFO Jean-Pascal Beaufret have ever been questioned by investigators over a bribery scandal at his former employer Alcatel-Lucent.
Quigley said that investigators "just weren't interested in" he and Beaufret – both former Alcatel executives now working at NBN Co - and that connections publicised in the press were "frankly misinformed".
He said that two of the main countries in the scandal - Honduras and Costa Rica – reported to Spain, which in turn reported into Europe.
Quigley said at the time he was the president of Alcatel's North American operations – a completely different reporting line and area of responsibility in the business.
Quigley denied suggestions there was an "endemic culture" of bribery in Alcatel-Lucent and that senior executives were "severely reckless" in their failure to detect the fraud.
"I understood we had strict guidelines on ethics and business practices," Quigley said.
And Quigley also noted the "complexity" of Alcatel-Lucent's operations – a "$20 billion company operating in 140 countries".
"We had some very tight controls but some fraudulent activity took place," he said.
He said that as soon as the fraud was identified, it was reported to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and US Department of Justice, which launched a five-year investigation that ultimately resulted in US$137 million in fines.
Quigley also said Alcatel-Lucent wasn't alone in falling foul of US regulators. He said that 44 major companies worldwide had been similarly fined by the SEC over $3 billion in the past three years.
He personally vouched for Beaufret's "integrity and competence" as a CFO and for the employees of NBN Co when quizzed on whether he was concerned about similar corruption occurring locally.
"I have a lot of faith that the people employed in this company are honest, hardworking individuals," Quigley said.
"I don't expect to have to sit on everyone's shoulders."