The article itself is almost superfluous once you’ve read the headline but according to the survey, a quarter of Wall Street executives see wrongdoing as a key to success. Just when you thought that banker-bashing had reached its zenith, along comes a survey like this that turns the dial up a notch. How long before we see the mass return of disgruntled anti-capitalist “Occupy” demonstrators on the streets of New York and London in response?
Continuing on the theme of corporate corruption was this New York Times newspaper article which contained the rather alarming line: “Company executives are paid to maximize profits, not to behave ethically.” I’m not sure I entirely agree. The number one priority may be to maximize profits but behaving ethically should be (at the very least) a top five priority. And the latter can spur the former. The crux of the debate seems to be this: As a CEO, if you could guarantee your board that you wouldn’t get caught doing something that would increase profits but which was unethical, would they sanction it?
The above headline from the UK’s Press Association seems like a fairly unambiguous one. However, if you read the UK’s Guardian newspaper, you might get a different idea of what happened to Israel’s former prime minister. The Guardian decided to run with the following: ‘Ehud Olmert convicted in corruption case’. And the UK’s Independent went with ‘Guilty of corruption - but Olmert sees chance for return to power’ while The Scotsman newspaper decided on ‘Olmert beats corruption charges’. What’s going on? Olmert was cleared of the two most serious charges of corruption but convicted of ‘breach of trust’. While Olmert could potentially still face three years in prison most newspapers agreed that the outcome of the trial was a victory for the former prime minister.
If true, this is exactly the sort of case that has compliance officers tearing their hair out and business associations lobbying for change to anti-bribery laws. According to The Daily Telegraph newspaper, a BP contractor (not an employee) paid a bribe to a government official and then reported the crime to the UK’s anti-corruption agency, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). While the contractor could face a fine and/or prison time, if the bribe was paid after Britain’s Bribery Act came into force in July 2011, BP could also be held criminally liable. Not only are contractors notoriously difficult to control but given that the contractor allegedly went straight to the SFO as opposed to BP’s legal department, BP didn’t even have the chance to investigate the incident themselves - a tough break indeed.
What do you do if you’re president of Pakistan, your supreme court accuses you of corruption and found your last prime minister in contempt of court for not opening an investigation against you? If you’re President Asif Ali Zardari you appoint a new prime minister and sign a law exempting senior officials from contempt of court charges. Problem solved!