The Payments You Have Withheld By Fraud

Recently, a friend of mine that I had met at the Feast of Tabernacles in Estonia who happens to be from Australia commented to me that I was the only person he knew of within the Church of God who made a big deal out of Deuteronomy 24:14-15 [1], which reads:  “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether one of your brethren or one of the aliens who is in your land within your gates.  Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the Lord, and it be sin to you.”  I told him that my own personal experience had influenced me to take this particular passage very seriously because I had seen cases were people were driven into some serious debt because of the way that their wages had been manipulated by companies who liked to stay weeks in arrears as a way of improving their own cash flow while playing havoc on the lifestyle of their employees, who could be owed two, three, or more weeks of wages at any given time and struggling to pay for rent, food, and transportation expenses.

Yet this is not the only area where I have some personal experience in how this problem of the timing of payments can play havoc with others.  And while I am but a minor participant in this particular problem, it is worth considering anyway because of the way this sort of process works and how difficult it can be to deal graciously with others even when one can.  For several years now I have had a minor part in the invoicing process for the company I work for.  First I will explain the process, where the delays in the process tend to come, and then how this problem can play havoc on others and serves as a violation of God’s law as defined in Deuteronomy 24:14-15, although it is likely to be the sort of violation that is very common in our world.

The company I work for purchases a great many calls and leads for its agents, in order to provide opportunities for these agents to make sales and to make our company (and the agents themselves) a fair amount of money.  At the beginning of every month (and sometimes just after the middle of the month), vendors send invoices for the calls or leads that have been sent to us for the previous month or half-month.  The invoice requests go to a coworker of mine who sits behind me, and who then forwards the invoices to the person who has to approve them and split the invoices as necessary into various cost centers (the smaller companies that deal with health calls and leads, medicare calls and leads, or leads and calls sent to independent agents) as well as the person who has to find the backup in our phone and lead reporting software.  I happen to be the person who has to provide the backup, and when I have compiled it for each invoice and when the invoice has been approved and split up as necessary it is sent to our accounts payable who then is responsible for sending out the payment to the invoice in a timely fashion.

There are at least two points in this process where things break down.  While I have as strong a motivation to get rid of invoice backup requests as someone who is handling a hot potato or a live grenade, the person who approves the invoices has typically been more leisurely (although the person doing it at present approves the invoices in a very timely fashion in general), and our company’s accounts payable sends out the payments on the date when the payments are due at the earliest, regardless of how early everyone else does their portion of the invoice approval process.  While I typically process invoice backup requests within hours, accounts payable can take more than two weeks on a regular basis to approve payment and never pays early.  This causes a great deal of resentment for the companies we buy leads and calls from who send us late payments that accounts payable refuses to pay and who sometimes act rudely and send hostile messages to the coworker behind me who is not responsible for the holdup but who is the front-line employee when it comes to dealing with invoices.  In general, none of us enjoy dealing with these invoices and everyone feels at least a bit hostile about how things go.

It is clear that for accounts payable, the delayed payment of invoices is a way of managing cash flow for the company in the most positive way possible, waiting until the very last moment to send off checks or electronic funds transfers that would lower our cash balances and also refusing to pay for any late fees that result from the differential in time between when the check is sent or the EFT is processed and when the funds arrive to the lead vendor.  As far as the Bible is concerned, and certainly as far as the lead vendor is concerned, this amounts to a form of theft because it involves a canny use of the time value of money to ensure that the money for payments and bills spends as much time in accounts as possible, drawing as much interest as possible, and only is spent at the very last minute to provide a technical payment within the net 30 days that is often specified on the invoices.  It should be noted as well that when there are haggles over credits or the prices of calls and leads or late fees that the net 30 our company pays is not the net 30 of the original and disputed/incorrect invoice but the net 30 of the last invoice, which may involve a considerable delay of payment well beyond what the lead vendor expects.

Personally speaking, I have a great deal of sympathy for the lead vendors, who are generally smaller companies who depend on the prompt payment of invoices in order to provide for their own cash flow.  While these invoices are fairly small expenses, relatively speaking, for our own company, they amount to a vastly larger share of the income of the companies that we are dealing with, for the most part.  It is quite likely that the companies who sell us leads, possibly with curses uttered sotto voce as they try unsuccessfully to hurry payment along, think us to be big bullies who are not very good customers.  They may even be right (I leave that to the reader to decide).  What is the case, though, is that this is the general practice not only of the company I work for but of the business world as a whole.  It is considered good sense and savvy to delay payments as long as possible, whether one is the government or one is a corporation dealing with invoices or wages, so that one can profit off of the holding of those funds and the delayed spending of those funds.  Often in life when we are dealing with issues of money and power good sense and goodness are often at odds with each other, and we have to choose whether we will be clever or righteous.  In such a world as ours, it is quite easy to guess which of those two options is most commonly chosen.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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