Eni & Me: a 16 years fight!
Douglas Linares Flinto
CEO at Brazilian Business Ethics Institute & Eni’s Whistleblower
Brazilian Business Ethics Institute
Dom Cabral Foundation
My story with the Italian giant and one of the largest companies of the planet began back in 2001 when I was an executive at Eni’s Brazilian subsidiary and temporarily took over the main sales management of Agip Brazil. There, I received complaints of irregularities involving conflicts of interests, internal corruption, fraud, and even emission of « cold invoices ». Respecting the determinations of Eni’s Code of Ethics, I reported the misconducts and nonconformities with the words and spirit of the code, that as the company declares, is the guideline for all the six-legged dog’s actions.
On the following weeks, little happened and I ended up getting fired. After invoking Agip Brazil’s Committee of Ethics, I got an answer from the Brazilian operation saying that my resignation happened due to an « administrative and organizational restructuring » and not because of a « retaliation », as I stated. This was the first version about my dismissal.
It was evident that the millionaire scheme that I had reported had metastasized throughout the company, and in Agip Brazil’s backstage, the top management, in collusion, ran the illegalities and illegal activities practiced in Eni’s Brazilian subsidiary.
So I decided to write to the Board and to the company’s main shareholders, including to the main one, the Italian Government. The PwC, which at that time was the auditing firm hired by Eni, also received a copy of the new corresponding item. It’s the Board of Directors the highest authority inside and outside the company walls, the embodiment of the « Corporate Governance » and the « Big Boss » of all the executives, including the CEO. Besides, the Board is responsible for ensuring the Code of Ethics. Above all, it is the « Guardian of Ethics »!
The resignations at Agip Brazil continued until it reached the commercial management. A few months later, Eni announced to the market the sale of all the Brazilian assets to the state oil company Petrobras, currently involved in the largest corruption scandal in Brazil. However, no contact was ever made with me, and Eni never answered any of my mails! On the contrary, after killing the « whistleblower » in Brazil, the company tried to do the same thing in Italy!
In 2010, Eni decided to file a civil lawsuit in the Court of Rome against me and the Brazilian Business Ethics Institute – an institution I founded in 2003 to promote Ethics in the business and student world – demanding an indemnity of 15 million Euros for damage caused by my libel or slander. (This intimidating attitude, to try to silence its opponents, is in Eni’s DNA. In 2013, an investigative reporter from Italian TV RAI, Ms. Milena Gabanelli, showed the company’s corrupt management in her TV Program: REPORT. The result: Eni opened a lawsuit of 25 million Euro for slander and defamation. However, a colleague from her profession, made an electronic petition at Change.org, in defense of the journalist, and obtained over 150 thousands of signatures. Eni changed its mind and ended the lawsuit).
In this action, oddly enough, Eni states that all the facts alleged by me are untrue and that, in fact, the company made an undercover investigation in Brazil to ascertain any damage. And I, for not collaborating, ceased the trusting relationship, resulting in my dismissal. This was the second version presented by Eni about my dismissal without the company having submitted one single proof on its charges.
Instead of Eni accepting its mistakes, ascertain its faults, enhance controls and honor its own Code of Ethics, the company chose to hide behind a « frivolous lawsuit » in an attempt to intimidate and silence me, and leave under the carpet the ills of its managements.
Fortunately, in late 2014, the judge ruled « groundless » Eni’s lawsuit. The company didn’t accept my proposal agreement, but preferred appeal the sentence.
I became a victim of my own report! Eni destroyed my professional career when it put me on the « black list » of all the companies operating in my country. And there’s more! Eni is also responsible for the loss of my retirement.
Despite everything, I will continue, until my last breath, with my personal quest to rescue and restore my name, my honor, my image and my reputation unfairly depreciated by the six-legged dog.
In March 2016, my story against the Italian giant Eni was published in an investigative book written by two Italian journalists (Mr. Andrea Greco and Mr. Giuseppe Oddo): The Parallel State: The first investigation on the Eni. Mr. Greco wrote me that: “The authors decided to include your story because, after reading most of the documents you sent and talking with their sources, they convinced themselves that the story had roots, and that was right and interesting to include it in the context of “Stato parallelo”.
In January 2017, the « Ethical Boardroom Magazine » published my article: « Whistleblower a hero, a villain or a fool? ». For me, doing the right thing… Acting ethically and with integrity… Makes our life worth living! I’m making my life worth living! (Watch my video about the subject: Make my life worth living!).
In April 2017, Mr. Mauro Meggiolaro (Eni’s Critical Shareholder of the Fondazione Finanza Etica – Gruppo Banca Etica) took my case to Eni Shareholder’s Meeting. Yes, I am the first whistleblower in the world to be represented at a Shareholder’s Meeting! Under Italian law, Mr. Meggiolaro wrote 10 (ten) questions about my story. These questions would have to be answered by the Board of Eni. However, the members of the Board of Directors of the company did not answer to the questions that were individually formulated to them and preferred to respond in a long text. In this text, once again Eni « made up » a new version on my dismissal:
« The former employee was fired together with other actors of unlawful behavior, by reticence, for having violated the obligation of confidentiality and by trying to use instrumentally Eni’s Code of Ethics to gain personal advantages of the company« .
This was the third version about my dismissal without Eni having submitted one single proof on its charges. In fact, Eni tried to prove what the company said. In this same document Eni also says: “Contrary to his belief, from the investigations performed by Eni, following the notices received in 2002, it emerged that, as reported by the Board of Statutory Auditors of Eni SpA in the Shareholders’ Meeting Report included in the Eni 2002 Financial Statements”. But, this “Eni 2002 Financial Statements” has 354 pages and, of course, there is no mention of my case (know the “Eni 2002 Financial Statements” in full).
This type of attitude is part of the character of the company! Just look at the OPL 245 case in Nigeria! Shell has already admitted illegal and unethical acts in the acquisition of OPL 245 and Eni’s Board of Directors continues to deny the irregularities.
It is easy to see that in 16 years Eni presented three different versions on my dismissal, distorting, at each new version, the facts that originally motivated the complaints lodged by me. It is also unincontrovertible fact that one version was more false and liar, more harmful and damaging than the other.
In the 1st Version, the company denies the « complaints » made by me and denies the « retaliation » practiced by Agip Brazil, claiming that it was only a simple and ordinary « administrative and organizational restructuring ». In the 2nd Version, I « did not collaborate » and had a « reticent stance » when Eni carried out « secret investigations » in Brazil. And, surprisingly, in the 3rd Version, the company says that I was criminally involved in the scheme of internal fraud and corruption (which I denounced), and that my dismissal occurred along with other actors of « illegal behavior ». In addition, Eni accused me of « reticence », of not having preserved « confidentiality » and of being an « opportunistic » person because I had used Eni’s Code of Ethics (which I fulfilled in full) to build an untrue story with the intention of obtaining financial advantages of Eni. The company cunning returns against the company itself, as it is more than evident that Eni doesn’t want to admit the truth: that I was dismissed in « reprisal » after denouncing a million-dollar scheme of corruption in Agip Brazil.
It is to be noted that in all those years Eni doesn’t admit its mistakes towards me. It is undisputed that I: (a) simply complied with the determinations of Eni’s Code of Ethics; (b) that I was the « whistleblower » who stripped away the dark facts that were happening in the innards of Agip Brazil; (c) that I denounced a millionaire fraud and corruption scheme at Eni’s Brazilian subsidiary, providing the company with the necessary measures to correct such non-conformities with the Code of Ethics and to stop the millionaire deviations in the coffers of Agip Brazil; (d), nor did it finally admit that I was dismissed in « reprisal » when he should have been protected by the instruments present in Eni’s Code of Ethics.
And in February 2018, Mr. Massimo Mantovani, former Chief Legal Officer and current Chief Gas & Lng Marketing and Power Officer of the Italian oil giant is being investigated by the Public Ministry of Milan for trying to disrupt the investigations about « international corruption » involving the OPL 245 Case in Nigeria. He was responsible for signing the « frivolous lawsuit » of Eni against me demanding an indemnity of 15 million Euro for slander and defamation. Eni tries to transform me from a whistleblower into a villain.
Eni’s attitudes over the past 16 years are causing wounds to me and will take a long time to heal, leaving sequels and harmful consequences for life. Eni, in addition to not recognizing its mistake, acts in a very unorthodox way, slandering and defaming me. The reflections of the acts committed by Eni against me may well be illustrated by two Brazilian jurists:
“The dishonor, the bad fame, pursue someone like an enormous stain, an irreversible stain. The tranquility of their conscience, the inner health of their character, does not count in the always prejudicial judgment of the surrounding world. The stain of injury and defamation is what stands out most prominently before all in a judgment of obliquity and whispers that never ends”;
“A wounded person by dishonor, their reputation depreciated, mistaken for the null character, the moral indigents, even the triumphant ones, also rises, but, with more difficulty. While there remain in the collective memory those doubts sown by offense, will always be diminished, as if a piece was missing, some portion of an inseparable value of their personality, their honor”.
But, my fight against a giant continues! I make Malala Yousafzai’s words my own: “I tell my story not because it is unique but because it is not” and « I hope my story can be served as an example, motivation and inspiration to other whistleblowers who are being silenced and their careers and reputations buried around the world by companies that don’t respect their codes of ethics, by employees and executives who steal corporate coffers and the board that pretends nothing happens ».
Now, a whistleblower will take Eni to the Court of Rome! The Italian oil giant will become the “defendant” in your country! Wait for news!
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