Leaders in Anti-Fraud Efforts: General Mills Goes Above and Beyond with International Fraud Awareness Week



General Mills is a household name for most consumers around the world. The multibillion dollar company may be known primarily for their cereals, but they also produce and manage more than 100 brands in more than 100 countries, spanning from natural dog food to organic soups and snacks. While they’re mainly known for their food, they are also leading the way for spreading fraud awareness and anti-fraud education. Jay Samson, CFE, General Mills senior manager for investigations and forensics in global security, has spearheaded extensive International Fraud Awareness Week (Fraud Week) efforts for a number of years, and he says they are only planning on continuing to grow their efforts.

“When the ACFE created Fraud Week it was a natural and wonderful excuse to partner with this global campaign effort and bring broader awareness to our workforce,” said Samson. “We started with just a couple presentations and have year-on-year increased the offerings by one or two, including personal interest fraud-related content like identity theft, home network security, etc. In years past we have had the U.S. Postal Inspector speak, as well as a couple of convicted fraudsters.”

In the beginning of their efforts to spread fraud awareness, Samson acted as a one-man team. However, over the years he has formed a multi-disciplinary planning committee involving other global security areas as well as accounting, ethics and compliance, and others. “We have also partnered with our HR, law and controllers around the world in providing the framework of promotional materials and presentation ideas for them to duplicate in their respective facilities,” said Samson.

The committee starts planning for Fraud Week nearly nine months in advance. “Our committee has learned that to get dynamic speakers, earlier is better,” said Samson. “As such, we always have a campaign debrief meeting to talk about what worked and what could be done better. We also discuss how we could get better global reach so we can be mindful of the personnel to include in our planning efforts earlier. We brainstorm on speakers for the next campaign and attempt to secure their calendars no later than end of March. Admittedly, trying to find alternative, yet informative content each year is our biggest challenge.”

Their dedication to spreading fraud awareness and anti-fraud education during Fraud Week is clear — even from just the sheer amount of activities they participate in. “This year we have many events planned. We have four external speakers aligned — three to present in the U.S. at our corporate headquarters and recorded for on demand viewing by all employees — and one speaker in our Mumbai, India, office. There will also be breakout sessions with our presenters with specific groups of interest like finance, ethics and compliance, law and global internal audit. We will explore topics like, ‘How Good People Rationalize Bad Decisions,’ ‘Generational Ethics’ and ‘Designing Effective Controls to Combat Fraud,’” said Samson. “The Fraud Week Expo will be a fun and interactive event where employees can win prizes for answering fraud trivia, and learn more about reporting fraud. This is done in a centralized location where employees are coming and going around lunch when we get the most attention.”

Samson says one of the reasons General Mills does so much to observe Fraud Week is that it’s a great excuse to educate employees on fraud without raising any alarms. “Fraud Week allows General Mills to be a part of something bigger, truly global, without employees asking the question, ‘why now?’ or ‘do we have a problem?’” said Samson. “Like many organizations, we have become much more transparent over the years about the issues facing us — both internal and external risks — and while security awareness is an ongoing annual goal at General Mills, fraud awareness is a unique problem that faces all organizations. Fraud Week creates a natural space to highlight these challenges and promote awareness to deter fraud while promoting reporting.”