Marsh Supermarkets’ board passed a code of conduct in 2000, outlining the ethical do’s and don’ts for its 15,000 employees.
One problem: The company’s then-chief executive, Don Marsh, said he didn’t know about the policy then or much later.
In fact, the longtime CEO of the Indianapolis supermarket chain testified that he was unaware of its corporate ethics policy until Wednesday, when the subject came up during the third day of his civil trial. The company is suing its namesake former CEO to recoup millions of dollars in alleged wrongful expense payments and personal airplane flights he received during the period of about 1999 to 2006, when he was terminated under new owners.
Marsh’s testimony was one of the more revealing exchanges in the case, playing out in a federal courtroom in Indianapolis.
Under questioning by company attorney David Herzog, Marsh at first said he was unaware of a code of conduct at the company his father founded and he led for 38 years. When shown a copy of the policy, he said, “The board of directors did not approve this.” When read the minutes of the meeting when the board approved it, Marsh then said, “I wasn’t under the code.”
Finally, Herzog read a sentence from the code saying it applied to all company officers including the CEO.
The code of conduct could play a key part in the company’s argument that Marsh violated policy by taking hundreds of trips on the company’s corporate jet, some of them personal with family or friends in tow, and others paid for by suppliers.
The code prohibits officers and employees from accepting gifts of value from outsiders who do business with the company.
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