16.12.10

To pay a bribe or not to pay a bribe?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11957514

If you'd like to get all high and mighty immediately upon this subject, consider this:

Gary Busch [a logistics expert who has worked for companies that own and operate cargo vessels and aircraft in Africa] points out that there are countries where corruption is minimal, yet a form of it still goes on under a different guise - called lobbying.
"In the US they pay Congressmen and Senators to get the contracts in their area," he says
"They pay contributions to the political campaigns. Sure, that is not corruption. That is lobbying."
There are an estimated 15,000 lobbyists in the European Union, representing a company or a group of people who want something from the politicians.
"Officials in African countries routinely take money to issue contracts, but I would suspect more money is lost in Washington, Milan, London or Dusseldorf in one week than is lost in Africa in a year," Mr Busch says.

If you want to purely count pay-to-play schemes and contributing money to person X or the causes he supports with the reasonable expectation that this will make it easier for you to accomplish Y or get legislation Z enacted, then the US Congress and Presidential election campaigns are probably the most corrupt enterprises that have ever gone on in the history of this planet.

So how do we combat this? Cellphone video cameras. Hidden cameras. Microphones. Testimonies. Witnessing. Ombudsmen. Corruption hotlines. Shining a transparent light into as many places as you can. Gradually these types of things can be brought on top of the table, and eventually be institutionalized with rules related to lobbying (sorry, it ain't ever gonna go away completely). You'll never get rid of the fact that it takes money to get elected. That money has to come from somewhere. If you want gun-rights legislation, you contribute to the elections of card-carrying NRA members. If you want gun control, you contribute to the guy who's willing to make it happen.

The drug runners will always be making more money than the cops. The temptation will always be there.

You're obeying the law and the spirit and letter of the FCPA. And then you're stuck at an airport with the choice of months of paperwork or a small bribe that will enable you to continue servicing your in-country client, safe-keeping the jobs of your employees and affording your wife the lifestyle she wants and your kids' college careers.

While the French or Russian company who's your direct competitor just whizzed by customs inspection because that's how they routinely do business.

Do what you can. Always immediately refuse the bribe. Figure out a way that you can come out on top no matter what. At least keep records of who does and says what so you can then bring it up to your superior or your lawyers or your Congressperson.

A $200 bribe or lose millions of dollars in business and lose your employees their jobs? Time to make some phone calls, at least. And maybe have a chance later on in sticking it to the guys who made you pay the bribes. Or at least shining some light on the foreign competitors who force you to pay or lose the job.

"If you are a small company and need to get your goods through customs, it is a difficult moral choice," says Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, the former chairman of both the oil giant Shell and the global mining company Anglo-American, two of the biggest companies in the world.
However, if you do pay a bribe you will be responsible for perpetuating corruption and you will almost certainly be committing a criminal offence.
Furthermore, you will be adding an additional cost to your business.
"When it is your business, the employment of your people, then I think paying a bribe is the lesser of two evils," Sir Mark says.
But even if you're stuck paying a bribe or facing some nasty trouble from a drunk Russian cop out in the middle of nowhere during an absolutely bull**** traffic stop - you can at least write down where and when and what happened, and try to get some attention to it after the fact. As in - after you've left the country.

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