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It’s always important to hire the right person for the job. But the recent resignation of luggage-maker Samsonite’s CEO, Ramesh Tainwala, serves as a high-profile reminder that resumes sometimes fail to reflect reality.

Mr. Tainwala resigned on June 1, 2018, following the release of an activist investor’s report which included allegations that he had repeatedly been represented as “Dr. Ramesh Tainwala” in online media and regulatory filings, despite never actually completing the PhD program he’d enrolled in. A simple degree check confirmed that he’d never been awarded a diploma, and in statements to the Wall Street Journal (paywall), Mr. Tainwala acknowledged that he did not hold a PhD, and that he had “always felt embarrassed about it as [he] knew [he] did not complete the program.” Ramesh Tainwala’s resignation is reminiscent of former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson’s resignation in 2012; Thompson had padded his resume by adding a computer science degree to the accounting degree he actually held.

While some candidates (like Tainwala and Thompson) will embellish their actual academic experiences, others, like Broward Health CEO Beverly Capasso, simply purchase degrees from “diploma mills,” unaccredited institutions which issue degrees but require little to no classwork. In Beverly Capasso’s case, she’s manage to retain her position as CEO, despite the revelation of her diploma mill master’s degree, although she and several members of the Board are currently under indictment for violations of Florida’s public meetings law.

Diploma mill degrees are relatively cheap to obtain, and their use is relatively widespread. In the course of a 2017 investigation into diploma mills, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reporters were able to acquire three separate PhDs for a total of US $1,550. Business records acquired by the CBC reportedly show that over 800 Canadians have purchased degrees from one Pakistani diploma mill alone. The problem is believed to be similarly prevalent in the US and around the world.

More disturbing than those who pad their resumes or buy fake degrees are identity thieves who operate by using the professional credentials of others. In recent years, people have been found fraudulently posing as doctors (OBGYN and GP), lawyers, accountants, and engineers. Each came to hold positions of significant trust (including maternity care, tax preparation, and mining and construction oversight) before being exposed and indicted.

When hiring for key positions, resume fraud is just one concern among many. Without careful due diligence checks, a criminal background, ongoing financial difficulties, or a tainted reputation can also fly under the radar, only to resurface down the line.  At Smith Brandon International we offer comprehensive background investigations to help ensure that your new hire is the right one for the job.

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