What a difference a year or so makes. In December 2007, Lucent Technologies Inc. -- which became part of Alcatel SA in November 2006 -- settled Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges. It had illegally paid millions of dollars for Chinese officials to take more than 300 trips to the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. They were supposed to be business missions but ended up being junkets -- "sightseeing, entertainment and leisure." Lucent paid $2.5 million to resolve the offenses.
But last month, Alcatel-Lucent signed agreements in Washington, D.C. worth $1.7 billion with China Mobile and China Telecom. The company said the agreements are the first of many that will help Chinese companies roll out 3G technology.
We've said before that we believe in corporate redemption and second chances. It looks like Alcatel-Lucent is making the most of its freshly cleaned slate. The winners will be its stakeholders, Chinese partners, and the Chinese people who'll benefit from upgraded technology. (And we like its nifty 3D logo, above.)
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Corruption in Iraq is so bad that it's blocking the country's recovery. The New York Times' Sam Dagher wrote a great story about it (here). Here's how he started:
Iraq’s main anticorruption watchdog has no shortage of cases, as its new report makes clear: embezzlement of $80 million; tampering with government tea imports; the theft of 50 Italian-made Beretta pistols; procuring forged Ph.D.’s; and scores of other crimes.* * *
The real problem is the difficulty of prosecuting people for corruption, which is so widespread that it has become one of the main obstacles to stability and progress in Iraq, according to Iraqi and American officials. Among the barriers, the officials say, are laws that give ministers the right to pardon offenders, as well as partisan and sectarian interference, pressure, infighting, vendettas, blackmail and death threats.
The expense-account scandal in the British Parliament sure is . . . grubby. Petty corruption always looks that way. And that goes for FCPA-compliant "facilitating payments" too.
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Mahatma Gandhi's 1948 message about graft in India is universal:
Corruption will go when the large number of persons given unworthily to it realize that the nation does not exist for them to exploit but that they exist to serve the nation. This requires morals, and extreme vigilance on the part of those who are free of the taint. Indifference will be criminal…* * *
Our friends at Trace International sent us "Toxic Transactions: Bribery, Extortion and the High Price of Bad Business," their hour-long anti-bribery training video. The interviews with current and former prosecutors and others make one thing clear -- those who pay bribes are likely to be caught and punished, with jail a real possibility. So compliance is the only option that makes sense. Great message. Congratulations to Alexandra Wrage and Trace. Clips from the video can be seen here.
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The FCPA has been around for more than 30 years now and, as Trace's video shows, people are getting better at talking about it. That includes those from government, private practice and corporations. So the subject seems a lot less mysterious than it used to and more accessible. That's good news. It's also a gentle plug for the books at the right -- Bribery Abroad and the newly released Bribery Everywhere (both are in stock and can be ordered now). Anyway, we're glad people are more comfortable these days talking about the FCPA in a way that's less formal and not so legalistic.