Compliance in Practice Part 1

How would you have acted? Harmless text message turns out to be critical.


Mr. Ichting, sales employee of Steel, gets back to his car after an exhausting meeting and takes a quick look at his mobile phone. He notices a strange text message from a former customer, who is now working for a competitor: “Hello Mr. Ichting, are your colleagues enjoying the beautiful weather in Stuttgart, too?”Mr. Ichting wonders why the former customer is contacting him all of a sudden and why he is enquiring about his colleagues. Before Mr. Ichting drives off, he briefly replies: “Hi, I don’t understand, I’m travelling.”

The next morning he finds out about the background of this text message. On the day before an important bidding round took place at Daimler, a major German car maker with its headquarter in Stuttgart. When the former customer sent the text message, only two steel producers were left in the bidding process – including thyssenkrupp. Apparently the second steel producer was the sender of the text message. The sender was trying to find out whether Mr. Ichting’s colleagues were his potential opponents.

To be on the safe side, Mr. Ichting subsequently calls the thyssenkrupp compliance officer, who then contacts the competitor’s legal department. The competitor declares that with respect to antitrust law they have a zero tolerance policy. Furthermore, the employee and his supervisor will be contacted immediately as such attempts to sound out competitors are strictly prohibited.


Compliance is a question of mindset. Thanks to the cautious reaction of our employee, we remained in line with our compliance standards. Therefore, if you ever feel that something’s not right in such a situation, do not hesitate to mention it. Calling the compliance officer is the right thing to do here!