1916.06.08.De Worms et Cie Port-Saïd

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Worms & C°
Branch Houses in Egypt
Suez, Alexandria & Cairo

Port-Saïd, 8th June 1916
MM. Worms & Cie - Paris

Mr. A. Swallow. We beg to confirm our confidential telegram of the 4th instant. We had sent Mr. Buchanan up from this office to replace Mr. Swallow, as you know. While Mr. Buchanan was having his final interview with Mr. Swallow the afternoon on which the latter left Cairo, the Cairo office cashier, a Mr. L. Takla, came into the room and pressed Mr. Swallow to settle up with him for the money he owed the cash. Mr. Swallow dismissed him peremptorily, saying he would settle later in the day. Mr. Buchanan's attention had, however, been roused and on making strict enquiries the following day discovered the state of affairs, which our telegram revealed to you, too late, however, for us to bring home personally to Mr. Swallow as his ship had already sailed.
It appears to us that you must take the most serious view, just as we do, of this affair, which in our eyes is a very gross abuse of trust on the part of Mr. Swallow, meriting at the least dismissal from your service. If this step is taken by you we wish to say that we shall not regret it in the least, as we never considered Mr. Swallow proved equal to his duties as your agent in Cairo, and the business has been managed from Port Said rather than from Cairo even in its purely local details. Our late General Manager must, we think, have reported to you verbally on several occasions what a failure Mr. Swallow was, but perhaps never actually recommended his dismissal, but the subscribers fully intended on the first occasion they had of seeing you in Paris, taking up the matter radically with you, and it is only the circumstances of the war that have prevented this coming about, which we now very much regret in view of the fact that Mr. Swallow has now proved himself dishonest as well as incompetent.
Mr. R. L. Howe has just returned from Cairo having made a special visit to enquire into Mr. Buchanan's revelations, and we believe and are relieved to say it, that apart from the personal large indebtedness of Mr. Swallow the books are in order, but we intend sending up Mr. Germain from our office to assist Mr. Buchanan in making a thorough enquiry into detail. We severely rebuked each member of the upper staff of the Cairo office that no hint of Mr. Swallow's doings had been conveyed by them to us, and we especially blamed Mr. L. Takla, who figures on the paysheet (the Asiatic paysheet) as cashier. Every week end it was the rule that a cash statement be posted to Port Said, and these Mr. Takla admitted he had consistently falsified by leaving out of the account the indebtedness of Mr. Swallow. We informed him that he was legally responsible towards us for issuing false statements, signed it is true by Mr. Swallow but initialled also by him. We did not accept the excuses he made, but in point of fact there may be something in them. They are to the effect that he was never appointed as cashier by us but was only given that designation by Mr. Swallow, anyone other than whom our firm had never been willing to recognise as responsible towards them for the cash. Mr. Takla states that Mr. Guy had several times, in his presence, made a positive statement to that effect to Mr. Swallow, and we remember now that this was Mr. Guy's attitude, that gentleman having while in Suez always taken personal responsibility for the cash and actually handled it daily, while at the same time acting as agent. We are not criticising Mr. Guy's ideas in the matter. The cash is a position of trust and none should be more worthy of it than the agent himself. We do think, however, that of late years the work in Cairo and the cash handled have been far too big a thing for the agent himself to attend to properly, in practice, and that the most the agent can be expected to do is to check the cash at intervals of not exceeding seven days, as is done by the managers here at the Port Said office. In this view there should be a responsible persona in Cairo in charge of the cash, apart from the Agent, and perhaps you will agree that that person should be an employee not of the Asiatic but of our own firm. Mr. Takla we believe to be honest but he occupies too junior a position (salary £.E,14 per mensem) and is moreover not the proper type of man. He has certain qualifications, for instance having fairly large private means of his own and good steady habits, but his character is too yielding and besides after this affair it would be impossible to place reliance on him.
You would oblige by giving us your instructions or advice regarding his case, we meanwhile merely stating our own view that we think we are entitled to insist upon his resigning but might, if there is some other, subordinate place we could find for him, still keep him in our service.
On crossquestioning the Cairo staff, we elicited what we suppose must be taken to be true, that Mr. Swallow had at no time in all the years past devoted much time to the firm's affairs and that since July last the time he had spent in the office did not average, daily, more than twenty minutes.
Indifferent health may have been some excuse for part of this neglect, but all the same this record constitutes in itself a severe condemnation of his conduct. This conduct and Mr. Swallow's habit of reimbursing himself monthly from the Asiatic cash of large sums, the actual outlay of which by him in any way connected with the Asiatic business was (and remains) highly doubtful did not pass unremarked by the staff, but they were one and all very much under his thumb, regarding him as one who was all powerful in the firm and able to do exactly as he pleased without fear of punishment.
We now enclose for your perusal an extract we have made from the private account with the firm kept by Mr. Takla for Mr. Swallow, showing his indebtedness month by month from 31st October 1912, and the book itself from which we have taken this list we are sending you under separate registered cover. You will observe that the entries during the last few months indicate a veritable "rake's progress", nor is such an expression inappropriate, as Mr. Swallow always had the reputation of being extravagantly self-indulgent and at one time was seriously admonished by Mr. Guy for his drinking propensities. We obtained private information on our last visit to Cairo above mentioned that Mr. Swallow had by no means abandoned these habits, but on the contrary, though rarely if ever the worse for drink in the accepted sense, was yet continually "fuddled" by excess of alcohol. We have made, as you will probably remember, fairly frequent visits to Cairo these last two years but have only twice on those occasions been able to meet Mr. Swallow, on one of those he certainly had the appearance and manner of one who had been drinking heavily, but as he was then undoubtedly in a bad state of health we ascribed the phenomenon to illhealth.
Taking the whole circumstances into consideration, we have once or twice been on the point of sending you a confidential letter about Mr. Swallow, in the impossibility of our talking the matter over with you, but finally refrained from this difficult and invidious task, owing to the fact that our affairs in Cairo, in the limited scope we leave to Cairo, appeared to be going, if not well, at any rate better than in former years. We think we can quite understand now the cause of this improvement. It was simply that Mr. Swallow himself was not attending to the business at all, but was leaving everything to the staff, which is not without normal ability, Mr. Shore in particular, our stenographer and the only employee that we (Worms & C°) have on our paysheet, being both active and conscientious, although he is too apt to make careless mistakes for us to have considered the advisability heretofore or leaving him in temporary charge.
On one occasion when Mr. Howe went up unexpectedly to Cairo without announcing his arrival, he discovered Mr. Swallow was not in town and that he had been living for some weeks at Helouan, letters and other documents for signature being taken out to him. We promptly sent Mr. Buchanan off from Port Said to take temporary charge, and severely blamed Mr. Swallow for not reporting the facts to us. Mr. Buchanan remained some weeks after which Mr. Swallow returned to his house at the office, saying his health permitted of his resuming his duties and we recalled Mr. Buchanan as we badly needed him at the time at Port Said. It unfortunately happened that Mr. Buchanan's first stay in Cairo synchronised with the time of the kerosene riots, and the office was besieged day and night by an importunate crowd. In the circumstances it was a matter of physical impossibility for him to check the cash or obtain any inside knowledge of the workings of the Cairo office.
Again expressing our extreme regret for what has occurred,
We remain, dear Sirs,
Yours faithfully,

[Signatures illisibles]

PS. Taking it for granted that you will dismiss Mr. Swallow from your service, and as you will probably expect us to make our recommendations for replacing him, we therefore beg to state that we consider Mr. Buchanan would be a suitable person to leave in charge of the Cairo agency - provisionally, say till the end of the war, after which the matter could be reviewed at better leisure, and if it was decided then to make Mr. Buchanan agent in a definite manner, we should have some actual experience of his handling of the position.
2nd PS. 10th June. We received last night a letter from Mr. Takla dated Cairo 8th June, which we beg to pass on to you for your information. This letter, we may mention, rather confirms our belief, expressed above, that Mr. Takla has been much more sinned-against than sinning.

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