US Government Gets Serious about Preventing Bribery by US Companies Operating Overseas. The Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institute is a Chapter of Transparency International. Boyd Reid is its Secretary. A few days ago he circulated a very interesting article published by the Financial Times on 16 October. It reads as follows:
Bribery is too much like hard work
By Patti Waldmeir
Financial Times - FT.com Europe, October 16 2007
Bribery is not what it used to be: these days it is too much like hard work. The man in the safari suit can no longer just hand over a bagful of cash; corruption has had to get creative.
Paying for prostitutes is obviously outré, and Swiss bank accounts are so 1970s. For most even half-reputable US multinationals, paying a bribe these days means evading armies of accountants and auditors, deceiving dozens of lawyers and compliance officers, and fooling the born-again anti-bribery fundamentalists who enforce America's dreaded Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (not to mention the Chinese or Nigerian fraud squads).
For oil companies in some countries, there may be no reasonable alternative to bakshish; but other companies in other countries must ask themselves: is corruption worth the cost? This is not a moral question - on a strict calculus of risks and rewards, bribery may be too high a cost of doing business.
That, at least, was the message earlier this month when the top
When that African official asks for help getting the son of his second cousin twice removed into an elite American private school, just say No - who cares if he is paying the tuition; the cost of admission is priceless. When a rogue provincial official tries to shake you down for protection money, refuse - try to get the
The consternation in the room was palpable, as Mark Mendelsohn, the top FCPA enforcement official at the
Anyone who has ever run into a drunken soldier on an African back road at night knows that in some countries, No is not the right answer. And abandoning those markets altogether - for an oil company in
Ms Scarboro made clear afterwards that giving up on corrupt countries was not the only option: the wise company will structure its relationships with foreign public officials to avoid any suggestion of impropriety. But, in the end, the board may have to decide "if that's a place where they want to do business". If the country is dispensable to the company's operations, the best answer might be to pull out.
"The government is not completely unrealistic about what it's like to do business in some parts of the world," says Bruce Yannett of law firm Debevoise & Plimpton. The consensus among the legal experts at the conference was: spend lots of money training employees, monitoring local business partners, auditing foreign operations, launching dawn raids and surprise audits to make sure no one is disguising bribes as travel expenses - and you should just about survive. Paying bribes these days is just too costly.
The Financial Times Limited 2007
I do not know about you, but I was tremendously relieved by what this article revealed. For too long, US law enforcement authorities have turned a blind eye at their citizens venturing overseas and brazenly offering to pay bribes to local officials. It has been notorious around the world for decades. They often shelter behind the excuse that that is the way business is done in the
Now, for the protection of all of us in the