Finance

Lease company Econocom may fire director for cheating

This is apparent from recently made public decisions by the subdistrict court in Utrecht and the court of appeal in Arnhem.

Bankrupt customer

The 57-year-old Bart Creemers had been employed by the Dutch subsidiary of the French-Belgian lease company Econocom since 2003. As strategic director at the company he was responsible, among other things, for the large customer Resource Center, which went bankrupt last year.

Just before the bankruptcy of the healthcare company, Creemers called in sick, after which the client’s file was observed by a colleague. Because that colleague came across irregularities, Econocom had an investigation launched by a company detective.

High bills

This revealed, among other things, that Creemers had been involved in recruiting a consultant friend, who was going to give advice to the Resource Center. This consultant, Piet Priemis of Talent House, submitted fat invoices to Econocom for this. Between 2015 and 2020, the company paid him almost 2.2 million euros.

Investigations further revealed that Creemers subsequently received substantial sums of money from the consultant friend. He also had his company pay more than 60,000 euros in private costs, including for his wife’s birthday party and his son’s graduation party.

Dismissal

Econocom immediately fired the strategic director in March 2020, partly because of a conflict of interest. According to the company, he had ensured that his friend was able to collect exorbitant amounts of money, of which he also received a part.

The ex-director is also said to have had a safe and a television paid for by other business relations, had his employer pay for private costs such as flowers and lawyer bills, and he transferred the company’s Ajax season tickets to his name.

Lucrative job

It appears from the judgments of the subdistrict court and the Court of Appeal that Creemers did not need that money and those goods because his employer paid him so little. On the contrary, in 2019 he earned more than 40,000 euros gross per month in salary and bonuses.

It is also remarkable that Creemers was not satisfied with his resignation. To get his lucrative job back or to get a high severance package, the man went to court last year.

‘whistleblower’

According to the dismissed director, his employer had been aware of his relationship with the consultant friend. The reimbursement of his private expenses by the consultant’s company would only be intended to avoid VAT tax.

The direct payments would be loan repayments and sponsorship or investments in Creemers’ horse company C4Horses.

Furthermore, the ex-director suggested that he had been fired because, as a whistleblower, he had internally objected to the high rates charged to the healthcare company Hulpmiddelencentrum. He also claimed that his practices fit in with Econocom’s corporate culture.

Conflict of interest

A ruling recently made public shows that the subdistrict court in Utrecht attached little credence to that defence, or did not consider the arguments relevant for the assessment of the dismissal. The judge ruled in favor of the employer last October.

The ex-director appealed against this, but he was also blunt in that procedure. In a recent ruling, the court in Arnhem characterized him as ‘an employee who has subordinated the interests of his employer to his own interests’ and who has ‘systematically gone beyond the boundaries of what is appropriate’.

“Given the number of conflicts of interest occurrences, the variety of Econocom business relationships that the director has involved, and the nature of the conflicts of interest (…) there is an urgent cause for instant dismissal,” the court decides.

Case not settled

According to a spokeswoman for Econocom, which is listed on the Brussels stock exchange, the company has “became a victim of illegal acts by this ex-employee.”

She says she cannot go into detail about the case, because various investigations and legal proceedings are still ongoing. “We never make statements in such cases, but this does not end the matter.”

Creemers and his lawyer Jeanette Stam did not call back to requests for an explanation. Consultant Priemis, who was able to invoice more than 2 million euros but nevertheless put his capital villa in Zeist up for sale last year, did not want to comment on the matter.

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