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JFK Airport and Bribery

Bribery involves offering, giving, or receiving anything of value to influence a person in a position of organizational trust. Former British Airlines executive Steven Clark provided oversight of the airline's operations at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK Airport) in New York. He was indicted for accepting bribes to help a ground handling company obtain contracts with British Airways. Engaging in accepting bribes, in this case, put personal gain ahead of the best interests of the employer and the responsibility and accountability to obtain the best contracts. The payments were concealed from the airline through the use of fake invoices and were laundered through companies that Clark created. Jeff Kinsella, a former chief executive with Ground Services International (GSI) is also accused of making improper payments to Clark through fake companies that he created to facilitate the bribes.

In this case, both the individual providing the bribe and the individual receiving the bribe are being held accountable. British Airways was not charged, but from an ethical perspective, the company should educate employees on appropriate conduct and have internal controls to identify misconduct. Part of the payments to Clark included a 5 percent stake in GSI from Kinsella in exchange for promoting GSI's services. Even a legitimate ownership (not obtained through bribery) by a contractor would potentially be a conflict of interest (if it would hamper beneficial decision making). Clark's priority should have been to obtain services that were best for the airline.

Charges of money laundering were also in the indictment of both Clark and Kinsella because they funneled money through a limited liability company through invoices for nonexistent consulting services. Clark even received $3.6 million when GSI was sold for his 5 percent ownership that was a part of the bribe. In addition, there is evidence that even more bribes were paid to other officials at the JFK Airport. This level of corruption violated the trust held by stakeholders, including the airline, JFK Airport, and the millions of customers that use the terminal each year.

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