Sunday, May 30, 2004

The Wages of Prudishness

It was only a matter of time before the prudish internet policies instituted by the executives of most big companies caught out one of their own:

A leading banker and director of the Post Office was forced to resign yesterday from his £1 million-a-year job after admitting that he had accessed pornographic websites from his office.

Mike Soden, 57, the chief executive of the Bank of Ireland, was forced to quit after a regular internal check last week found he had breached the bank's policy on internet use. The businessman, who is married without children, issued a personal statement yesterday admitting that he had visited inappropriate sites of an "adult nature".

He said: "I have taken this decision for personal reasons. This arises from access by me on my PC to internet sites that contain content that infringed the group's policy on these matters. The content accessed was not illegal, but did contain links to material of an adult nature. I now understand and accept that in doing this I breached the policies of the Bank of Ireland." Mr Soden, who earned €1.6 million (more than £1 million) for running Ireland's second biggest bank, is the first well-known businessman to be forced to resign after being caught accessing porn sites.

While companies have become tougher on staff caught surfing for sex, so far only mid-ranking employees have had to quit. Investment banks, in particular, have cracked down, with a number of traders being sacked. Mr Soden joined the Post Office Ltd's board only two weeks ago as part of a joint venture deal between the Bank of Ireland and the Post Office to provide financial services in the postal network.


Of Britain's 10 million regular internet users, more than a third log on to porn sites. It is estimated that up to 70 per cent of internet porn traffic occurs during the nine-to-five working day.

Among the employees to have been dismissed for such misdemeanours were three Rolls-Royce workers sacked last month for downloading porn.

In December, BT admitted that it had sacked 200 workers over the previous 18 months for viewing internet porn, and in September 2000, Orange, the mobile phone company, dismissed more than 30 staff in Hertford and call centres in the North-East for the same reason.

In January 2001, Jerry Miles, the deputy mayor of Harrow, was sacked from his job as a librarian after a clampdown on internet misuse at the Marcus Garvey Library in Tottenham.

In March 2002, Paul Finch, an engineer at the Palace of Westminster was forced to resign after security staff discovered that he had been accessing websites for "swingers".
What a waste - if this guy was any good as an executive he won't be easy to replace, and now a long, difficult and costly search for a replacement will have to be carried out just because he viewed a sex site or two? Perhaps this incident will be the one to nudge company policies in a saner direction; if companies have no problems with their employees using their online access to visit sites of personal interest only, I see no good reason for singling out adult websites as particularly worthy of condemnation.