For the past week Danish media has been dominated by the development in what seems to be a fantastic business scandal. A scandal which has been lurking for at least a year but which was only brought to the surface due to a collaboration between computerworld.dk and freelance journalist Dorte Toft, who on her blog (in Danish) for the past year – as the only person in the Danish media and business landscape – has asked the basic questions no-one else seemed to pay attention to.
On her blog Dorte Toft asked questions like: “Where do the revenue of the seemingly extremely successful business software solutions company “IT Factory” come from? Why can’t IT Factory produce a list of customers ? And what’s the thing about the CEO, Stein Baggers, academic record, which seems very hard to verify?” Amongst some of her readers those questions made sense, and anonymous comments revealed worrying aspects of what has showed up to be the truth of IT Factory. Anonymous questions from people with insider knowledge.
Some twenty days ago the questions and the debate at Dorte Tofts blog started to draw attention and media-coverage at computerworld.dk, following IT Factory being awarded the best IT company 2008 by Computerworld themselves. Computerworld and Dorte Toft joined forces, which in turn led to Stein Bagger mysteriously disappearing from a lunch with his wife and a few business relations in Dubai, last Thursday; to the collaps and bankrupcy of IT Factory last monday and to the succeeding unveiling of one of the largest business scams in the Danish history.
The revenues and growth of IT Factory was in short based on fictitious invoices for fictitious leasing contracts with fictitious companies. Apparently Stein Bagger, now haunted by Interpol, conducted fraud of around 200 mio USD over a three year period.
On the one hand I find it deeply worrying to see how people with sufficient charisma and persuading power can fool the world.
But at the same time I find it very stimulating to see how the new media landscape, the tools given to everyone to express themselves, the ability of everyone with something at heart to blog or comment on others blogs, how all this increasingly makes covering up scams like these more and more difficult. I find it inspiring to see how the new media technologies today forms a nearly institutional basis for whistle-blowing. And I find reason for democratic optimism to see how the very same new media technologies once more highlights – and perhaps gives the best reasons ever for really believing in – the words of Abraham Lincoln that you can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.