Should Companies Turn a Blind Eye to Bribes?: Greenberg
CNBC Senior Stocks Commentator
The elephant in the room in the wake of the Wal-Mart fiasco is whether we should accept, cover-up or no cover-up, the concept of bribes, graft and outright corruption as simply a way of doing business abroad?
The government says no — sort of — in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Honestly, after reading through the FCPA, this much is clear: You can drive a truck through the gray areas of the law.
What’s the difference between a bribe and a legal “facilitating” payment? You read it and tell me.
After saying (in thick legalese) that bribes are illegal, the law also says:
Subsections (a) and (g) of this section shall not apply to any facilitating or expediting payment to a foreign official, political party, or party official the purpose of which is to expedite or to secure the performance of a routine governmental action by a foreign official, political party, or party official.
Either way, it would be hard to argue that bribes aren’t all ethically bad.
But are they avoidable?
I wondered as much Wednesday morning when I tweeted: “I realize bribes are SOP thru-out the world. Should US companies pay 'em? What is the alternative? Walk away?”
I then added: “Keeping w/the theme... Whether Chicago or Cairo: do we just say bribes ok and call them facilitating fees? Where draw line?”
The comments, not surprisingly, were along the lines of this @immersionlabs: “Going with the softball questions this morning? Pay-to-play is everywhere, goes by many names.”
But then this from @dadofad: “No one is forced to pay bribes, and companies are not morally duty bound to maximise profit by hook or crook.”
And this from @bffein: “How about requiring them to be fully disclosed, like political contributions?”
And this @Amahesh777: “We in US are spoiled. In all 3rd world countries if you need to get anything done you tip people. Daily Routine.”
And there were quite a few like this from @zman14: “Bribery is legal here for some - we call them PAC, Super-PAC, and reelection campaigning.”
And remember the question about the difference between facilitating fees and bribes? @jparkins10 believes the line is clear: “A bribe is to pay for something that your aren't necessarily entitled to i.e. a bid contract, a business permit.”
Finally, @bffein thinks he has a solution: “How about requiring them to be fully disclosed, like political contributions?”
Sounds great...in principle. Good luck trying to track down the non-paper trail!
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