This article first appeared in Revista Capital on June 11, 2018.

When he stepped down from SQM’s board in 2015, many probably believed that he would keep his distance from the company despite remaining its controller. However, we learned that he is back: Julio Ponce and his brother Eugenio are back as strategic advisors to the mining company,
taking advantage of the “vacuum” left by the agreement with CORFO and the e-mail expressly allowing Julio Ponce to become an external advisor to the company.

A mockery according to some, a lack of tidiness of the agreement that SQM had with CORFO according to others, and a conclusion that allows us to say that apparently, the company did not learn from its mistakes in the Cascadas case, nor from the irregular financing of politics, nor from the fine of US$30 million that the US SEC issued to it.

In a climate in which businessmen are struggling to recover lost trust, we find ourselves with this idea that seems to go against the current. This, at least, was ratified by businessmen who were former union leaders, who have learned the importance of good practices.

We cannot ignore this; little by little a change of paradigm is taking place and awareness is being created in the private sector. Here it is the businessmen who must take a critical look at what has been the reaction of the other companies in which we work. The reaction of the other companies in which members of the current SQM board hold management positions?

It is true, we know that the return of the Ponce brothers is legal, but the form does matter. Are there not other people qualified to be excellent advisors? SQM cannot afford to summon those who have failed the company. those who failed the company because it needs to recover its reputation and if it believes that this is the way it is wrong.

The great lesson of this whole episode is that companies, whatever their industry, size, or turnover, must jump on the bandwagon of good practices. If they do not do so, they run the risk that the State will always have to get involved -because there are already some who in this particular case is already thinking of nationalizing lithium- putting in check one of the most relevant achievements of our economic model: private property. economic model: private property.

By Susana Sierra