Astonishing revelations have surfaced today over the amount Amber Harrison spent on company credit cards even before she commenced an affair with Seven West Media CEO Tim Worner in 2014.
The suggested figure was as much as $500,000 spent on luxury hotels, international flights, clothes, restaurants, day spas, a weight loss clinic, a hypnotherapist, concert tickets and trips to the hairdresser.
Harrison – whose affair with Worner lasted for 18 months from 2013 – had her employment terminated at Seven in 2014 when news of (the now ended) affair became public.
Seven cited her misuse of the company cards as reason for her dismissal. Seven alleged as much as $262,000 had been spent by Harrison for personal use, although the former PA admitted to only $54,000 being for personal use.
The Australian Financial Review is this morning reporting that Harrison ran up as much as half-a-million-dollars, although there is no suggestion that a large proportion of this wasn’t for legitimate business use (including a work Christmas party). Yet, it does highlight the largesse of the network and the pampered life of its senior employees.
The AFR has quoted a Deloitte report presented by Seven’s lawyers to show the extent of Harrison’s spendings; however, Harrison has disputed the claims made by the auditing firm.
It has been alleged that because of Harrison’s access to the emails of Seven execs – namely her boss Nick Chan, the then CEO of Seven’s Pacific Magazines – she could sign off her own expenses.
According to Seven, investigations into Harrison’s spending began before the commencement of the affair with Worner. Deloitte told the Seven board in an initial report it had found “extensive and deliberate efforts by Ms Harrison to conceal personal expenditure.”
Seven currently has a court imposed gag order on Harrison preventing her from speaking to the media or airing sensitive documents she took while an employee of the broadcaster via social media.
In documents tended to the NSW Supreme Court and obtained by Fairfax Media, in 2012 (prior to her affair with Worner), Harrison went to Hong Kong with her then boyfriend for a trip she described as the “Book project – accommodation for negotiating author deal”.
During the “book” trip Harrison stayed at one of Hong Kong’s top hotel’s – the Upper House (in main photo) – running up a $2237 bill. She also claimed another hotel stay for $2309, entertainment expenses of $948 and a $974 iPad.
Seven has admitted that it has had a problem with loose spending on company credit cards, something it has tried to crack down on.
At last month’s announcement of Seven’s half-yearly figures, Seven’s chairman, Kerry Stokes, publicly backed the embattled Worner and took the opportunity for a swipe at Harrison.
“There was a significant amount of money taken by her and no other excuse for it, that (was) just plain taken,” Stokes said. “Now and again dishonest people work for us and no system will stop dishonest people unfortunately.”
The AFR also quoted a Seven spokesperson relating to the misuse of company credit cards: “The Deloitte Report’s conclusions identify a pattern of deliberate concealment of unauthorised personal transactions using multiple corporate cards. It is hard for any organisation to completely eliminate fraudulent conduct.”