The corruption eruption

2. May 2010

   Date: 02-05-2010
 Source: The Economist

Saying “no” to corruption makes commercial as well as ethical sense

IT IS 15 years since Moisés Naím coined the memorable phrase “corruption eruption”. But there is no sign of the eruption dying down. Indeed, there is so much molten lava and sulphurous ash around that some of the world’s biggest companies have been covered in it. Siemens and Daimler have recently been forced to pay gargantuan fines. BHP Billiton, a giant mining company, has admitted that it may have been involved in bribery. America’s Department of Justice is investigating some 150 companies, targeting oil and drugs firms in particular.

The ethical case against corruption is too obvious to need spelling out. But many companies still believe that, in this respect at least, there is a regrettable tension between the dictates of ethics and the logic of business. Bribery is the price that you must pay to enter some of the world’s most difficult markets (the “when in Rome” argument). Bribery can also speed up the otherwise glacial pace of bureaucracy (the “efficient grease” hypothesis). And why not? The chances of being caught are small while the rewards for bending the rules can be big and immediate.

When in Rome, behave like a Swede

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