- John R. Tyson, CFO of food-processing company Tyson Foods, was arrested Nov. 6 in Fayetteville, Arkansas on charges of public intoxication and criminal trespassing, according to the Washington County, Arkansas Sheriff Department. Tyson was released later that Sunday.
- Tyson, 32, is the son of company chairman John H. Tyson and was promoted to the role of CFO effective Oct. 2, after serving as the company’s chief sustainability officer.
- The Springdale, Ark.-based company is “aware of the incident and as this is a personal matter, we have no additional comment,” a Tyson Foods spokesperson stated in an emailed response to CFO Dive.
The father-son relationship between the chairman and the company’s new CFO sparked questions early on around the conflict of interest issues it raised following the announcement of the CFO switch, CFO Dive previously reported.
Among the major concerns was how or whether the board would go about removing the younger Tyson from his post should circumstances indicate a termination might be in order. Tyson’s arrest now puts the board in a difficult position, according to Nicole Coomber, assistant dean and professor of management & organization at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
“If a family member is in crisis, you want to support that person. However, if an executive has committed an illegal act, you must return to your written policies. It is crucial for the company at this point to make sure that they are adhering to whatever they have written down in their code of ethics,” Coomber wrote in an emailed response to questions from CFO Dive.
Given the “blind spots” that can crop up when it comes to family members, Coomber previously told CFO Dive that family-run businesses need to make sure they have transparent governance models and a family charter that specifically addresses how they will manage any conflicts of interest.
How Tyson Foods responds to the arrest in the next few days will be “very telling,” Coomber said Monday, adding that such an incident could have implications for the company’s branding. Making a clear statement on the importance and transparency of the company’s ethics could be key, but again, difficulties arise given the familial relationships at play, she wrote.
“If it had been a financial issue that came to light or had been any sort of other issue, the same problem would present itself because when it's a family member, it just complicates the decision making,” she said. “It makes it a lot harder.”
Tyson Foods declined to respond beyond its statement, including to a question about whether the younger Tyson would continue in his role as CFO.
According to information on the company’s conflict of interest policies on its website, Tyson Foods maintains that employees “have a duty to avoid a conflict of interest or even the appearance of a conflict...If we don’t handle potential conflicts of interest properly, these situations can impact the decisions we make, create the appearance of a lack of fairness and integrity and harm the Company’s reputation.”