The Company We Keep

Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) is one of those organisations that just can’t catch a break. On a rainy day they carefully carry an umbrella to avoid getting wet – walk into the kitchen and a pipe bursts showering them with water. They could donate an old pair of pants to the Salvation Army and forget the $20 note they left in the pocket. They are amazing. They could play against themselves and lose. This week alone there has been a further example.

I wonder if you remember when SNZ was desperate for sponsorship. State Insurance had just packed their sponsorship bags. That was after State, whose sponsorship was aimed at water safety, discovered SNZ staff were sailing around Lake Taupo without life-jackets. Government funding had been cut. SNZ was running out of money and friends. Then along came a company I’d heard of in my corporate days, international insurance agency, AON.

SNZ was delighted. Someone had agreed to financially support the Open and Age Group national swimming championships. In fact their excitement was at such a pitch they lied to AON about the benefits of the sponsorship. The SNZ website proudly proclaimed, “The announcement comes following the growth of participating swimmers entering both championships every year.” That wasn’t true but, what the hell, it sounded good. And in a time when we are told Trump’s crowd sizes are the biggest ever, when they are not, one more lie between friends doesn’t really matter?

As things have turned out, I need not have worried about the lie. AON are well accustomed to exaggeration. AON and exaggeration are positively hand-in-glove. You see AON have offices all over the world. Their organisation in the United States is huge; so huge in fact that one of their customers is a guy, who only deals in huge – Donald Trump.

We learned about AON’s connection to the President from Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. During Cohen’s testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Cohen explained that Trump had provided AON with fake information about his wealth. In particular Trump had told AON that a house he owned was worth $291 million when the actual value was less than $50 million. Using the false information AON had gone out to secure discounted insurance cover. Without question AON should have been more careful. They should have checked the information they were given, especially when the source was Donald Trump. Using Trump supplied data without checking its truthfulness to obtain insurance cover or anything else is asking for trouble.

As you might expect the whole thing is becoming really messy. Congress has ordered AON to turn over all the documents it has referring to the Trump business. At this stage no one is saying AON have done anything illegal. But the investigation is certainly focused on determining whether someone has been guilty of insurance fraud.

Perhaps we should cut SNZ some slack. How were they to know that the company offering them sponsorship was about to play a central role in the biggest scandal in the world right now? You have to admit though it is pretty typical of SNZ – almost get it right but never perfect. And now their only sponsor is embroiled in a Donald Trump outrage. Another SNZ comedy to go with a thousand other comedies.

Continuing the theme, I thought I might introduce SNZ Chairman, Bruce Cotterill, to Brian Le Gros, owner of the appropriately named White House strip club in Auckland. Then SNZ could do this thing properly. In addition to the AON financial gossip Brucie could add his very own SNZ Stormy Daniels’ moment. It could well be the climax of his career as a sport’s administrator.

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