Blog: Dave LeggettDaimler 'fesses up

Dave Leggett | 25 March 2010

Corruption in business – or indeed wider society - is a tough one to stamp out. Systems and checks can help a lot, but it really is quite amazing what goes on. I guess some of the problems stem from the fact that there are different attitudes to it across the world. And if there is a culture or institutional tolerance of low-level stuff – like, say, bribing traffic cops or public administrators to bend rules - the chances are high that there's much bigger stuff going on behind the scenes.

The temptation is to see 'oiling the wheels' with bribes as a simple overhead or cost of doing business in some places. If we don't do it, we lose the contract, the argument goes, and someone else will happily step in, the business ethics code thrown out of the window. Play the game or you're not in the frame.

How widespread are such practices? Some big corporations have been caught with their trousers down. Siemens, Enron, Volkswagen, Total, British Aerospace are a few comapnies that spring to mind. And Daimler seems to have been pretty busy around the world. Daimler has been accused of bribing officials in 22 countries in the period 1998-2008 to obtain government contracts. The firm is now happy to hold its hands up, cooperate with the US authorities and settle with an almost USD200m fine.

Did Daimler just own up after seeing the error of its ways, in an act of unprompted corporate repentance? No, not exactly. There was a whistleblower who had been unfairly treated and that sparked the investigation. Makes you wonder what might have happened  - or not - without the whistleblower...

Corruption – Why should companies care?

US: Daimler escapes corruption criminal charges


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