King Solomon on Due Diligence

25 Jan

Due diligence is nothing new.  In fact, it’s quite old.  Much older than you might think.

King Solomon said:

The thoughts of a diligent man lead only to advantage.  But everyone that is hasty hastes only to want.

Proverbs 21:5.

More recently (but still a long time ago) a 19th Century Jewish thinker commented on Solomon’s Proverb:

Though they act quickly, the diligent take time to think, and to plan out their best mode of action out of all the possibilities.  This is part of diligence; the thoughtful, efficient approach to action.  While it may delay them, it leads them to advantage.  The hasty person, on the other hand, acts without consideration and without waiting for an opportune moment, and he therefore fails.  Alacrity is a good policy in action but not in thinking and planning.  A waiting period in which ideas ripen is a good investment in starting any project.

I was reminded of this recently while reading the transcripts from the O’Shea trial.  (And if you think I’m going to write something about that…you are 100% right.)  In it, the intermediary had the following to say about the diligence that not just ABB, but also IBM and Microsoft put him through:

Q: Did you have to go through a screening process to get to represent the biggest companies in the world?
A: Not really

Q: So somebody like Microsoft is just going to hire [your company] without investigating y’all? [ed. note: this trial was in the South, so saying “y’all” isn’t unusual]
A: Yes.

My This Week in FCPA co-host Tom Fox is fond of saying that after the questionnaire, after the digging, after the site visit and everything else you do, then the work starts.  I completely agree with him.

But perhaps we’re being too hasty.  Perhaps companies need to first start at the beginning.  I know it’s a long way to catch up, but maybe they need to start with King Solomon.

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