Tom Westwood could charm the paint off the side of his house. But as the controlling shareholder of a large car dealership he also could find ways to misappropriate company funds to repaint that same house.
Tom Westwood was the personification of a cliché: the self-made man. He began his career as a car salesman. When he moved to Grand City, he had very little capital. He opened Grand City Motors in a vacant building where the previous vehicle dealership had failed. Even though he was new to Grand City, in less than a decade he built the entity into the largest and best-known dealership in the surrounding region. The business had a minority shareholder, but Tom operated the business.1
Tom had a gift for dealing with people. He had the uncanny ability to make each person feel like the most important individual that Tom had talked to that day. Whenever a salesperson couldn’t close a sale, he would refer the potential purchaser to Tom and most of the time he closed the deal. An articulate and polished man, he appeared on radio and television as the dealership’s spokesperson. Even in newspaper ads, the enterprise was billed as Tom Westwood’s Grand City Motors.
Through the years, Tom must have decided that he could do whatever he wanted with his business. He succumbed to the temptation of concealing the use of corporate funds for purely personal purchases. Through-out my career as an investigator and auditor with Revenue Canada (Canada Customs and Revenue Agency), I was involved in many investigations of corporations. Most of those investigations centered on shareholders or managers misusing business funds to pay for items that were strictly personal.