April 9, 2007
In a recent article in the Financial Times, columnist and legal counsel Patti Walmeir says that: “for decades bribery has just been just another cost of doing business” and that “more companies are now finding that what previously seemed like harmless acts of foreign palm-greasing can cost millions.”
The French company, Total, the world largest oil company is under investigation both in France and in the U.S. for bribing foreign officials and individuals.
The same is true for the German company Siemens, one of the world’s largest electrical and telecommunication company. (Ranked 22 on Fortune Global 500 companies)
What is bribery?
Most likely we were all offered bribes in the earliest part of our lives by…..our parents!
Some say that bribery is a parent's best tool. Offering child a treat in exchange for induced good behavior does qualify as a bribe.
A bribe is a gift given with the intention to change the behavior of the person in a way that is not consistent with his or her responsibilities.
There is a difference between bribery and extortion. A bribe is offered to obtain a favor but an extortion is a demand made under threat.
Rabbi Asher Meir thinks that there is a difference, (at least a moral difference) between a bribe given to expedite an action that the person would take anyway and one which he or she would not. It is one thing to bribe a building inspector to expedite the delivery of a permit if the building is in conformity with the building code. It is quite another matter to bribe a building inspector to grant a permit when the building is not in comformity with the code.
Others have a more absolute view.
The U.S. Government has a clear, comprehensive definition! More than 30 years ago, in 1997, Congress passed the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act (FCPA) that covers every U.S. company or any company that does business in the U.S.
Bribery violates justice and fairness. It also damages trust. As John Jay Hooker said:
“But there will be no justice, there will be no government of the people, by the people, and for the people, as long as the government and its officials permit bribery in any form. “