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back to article Blighty's new anti-bribe law will do more HARM than good

We used to draw a distinct line between what was acceptable business conduct here at home and what we did abroad with Johnny Foreigner. Inviting Bertie from your major customer to Henley or the Derby, or waving Cup Final and Olympic tickets in his face was entirely acceptable. Slipping him £500 for an order was bribery and both …

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Anonymous Coward

Gimme a fiver

and i'll be nice about this article, it won't be a bribe though. Oh no, it will be a reward for responsible readership.

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Anonymous Coward

So that's it

No more exports anymore, oh I forgot, bribing the Indian Government with Aid in return for buying our aircraft didn't work anyway. So maybe we'll save money and become more competitive at then tender stage.

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"and what we did abroad with Johnny Foreigner."

You can say that again. Marching in and stealing all their shit and enslaving people was outlawed in the country long before it became against foreign policy

(1) Jamaica and slavery,

(2) the Irish famine,

(3) the Opium Wars and Taiping Rebellion (though not the Boxers),

(4) the Sepoy Rebellion,

(5) the colonization of Egypt,

(7) the settling and revolt of interwar Palestine,

(8) Indian independence,

(9) the Suez Crisis,

(10) the Mau-Mau Rebellion,

(11) the suppression of the revolt in Malaya,

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Silver badge

It's important to not feel too much guilt about what our imperialistic forefathers did - if we hadn't been doing it, another European power would have been. You could go to any of the Imperial powers and produce another laundry list of dirty deeds. This isn't even a British or even European thing, Imperial Japan has its own long list of atrocities (ask any Korean).

What is more important is that we learn from our history and act more decently from now onwards to the rest of the world as a nation. Which we do.

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Anonymous Coward

Sorry Mark, there are at least four Imperialists that don't feel the same way as you.

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Anonymous Coward

You missed one

The Iranian Clusterf*** and how the British intervention, termination of a democratic government and installment of the Pehlevi family created the fertile soil for the Islamic revolution a few decades later.

This one is something we and our children will be paying for during the next 50 years (atfer the middle east conflict goes nuclear in the next decade).

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Stop

Give it a rest

How many of these acts did readers here participate in? Or even the wider UK population?

If you tried to hold any population other than the UK responsible for the sins of their fathers I suspect you would be one of the first to criticise.

You forget of course to mention that Britain lead the way in ending slavery, and the RN freed many would be slaves on the way between the african salvers and their US market. Guess that doesn't fit with the general anti imperialist kick...

anyways back to the subject...

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IT Angle

Re: Give it a rest

Intriguingly, as I read this lunch time, a lot of the RN ships that fought/stopped/impounded the slave traders as they crossed the Atlantic from Africa were Bermuda Sloops, most of which were designed, built and manned by Bermudan slaves.

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Holmes

Others are doing it, so it's OK?

"if we hadn't been doing it, another European power would have been."

You can make exactly the same argument now. If British companies can't pay bribes in Russia, the middle East etc, then they'll lose business to the Chinese or whoever else IS ready to pay the bribes. I would say well done to Britain for putting this moral stand ahead of profiting from dubious / dodgy business practices.

Hopefully such legislation will extend gradually across the EU and other countries, until regimes requiring bribes will start to find no takers and gradually come clean. Sure, it will take decades, and in these decades some British businesses will lose contracts from dodgy countries.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You missed one

Look harder; that was the Yanks (CIA) who caused that not the British. The CIA decided any president that had talks with Russia must be a raving commie. As opposed to someone talking to the head of state of a neighbouring country.

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Anonymous Coward

Blame the US

They started complaining that BAE managed to out-bribe them in Saudi Arabia while pretending that they weren't attempting to do the exact same thing. This hits the media which causes our politicians to step in pretending they knew nothing about it and then wanting to be shown to be being tough on corruption to get votes in the next election.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Blame the US - Yep

Anything we do that has any US involvement is covered by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act so the Bribery Act is simply bringing us into line with that. That doing business (and competing against Chinese suppliers) in some countries is now going to be pretty much impossible (without breaking British law) is another matter altogether.

My guess? Businesses will observe the 11th commandment carefully.

AC because I mentioned the 11th commandment.

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Bronze badge

Re: Blame the US

Two words:-

Lockheed. Luftwaffe.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Blame the US - Yep

The US has a law against it, so therefore it never happens.

Ho ho ho.

The only reason the US can claim to be pearly white is that US companys have had 40 years to perfect their techniques to hide bribes under layers of 'agent fees' or 'payments for services' or even through shell foreign companies setup to divert money straight into others pockets.

I have spent 30 years working overseas and everyone knew that the Americans bribed along with the rest of us, and the Americans admitted it (in private). I have even had Americans tell me that American officials gave advice on how to setup their finances so they can present a clean sheet to any auditors or law enforcement officials. Bribes was how business was done We knew, the Americans knew it and the UK and US Governments knew it .

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Joke

Re: Blame the US

The Germans are going to bomb Lockheed Martin?

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Re: Blame the US - Yep

Try and do a trade show in the US:

$100 to the teamsters so your kit gets off the loading dock and to your stand

$20 to each of the electricians to allow you to turn on your own lights on your own booth

$20 tucked under the trash can so your booth gets cleaned.

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Facepalm

Re: Blame the US

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_bribery_scandals

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Re: Blame the US - Yep

Right. The U.S. already has such a law (the FCPA, as you point out) which they seem pretty damn enthusiastic about. I have to take an annual refresher course on it even though I'm not remotely connected to sales of any kind and am about as likely to be in a position to bribe anyone anywhere as I am to win the Derby.

If it was such a terrible hindrance to export performance, you'd think one of the U.S. parties would have started raising a stink by now.

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Re: Blame the US - Yep

I never had to do that but I don't treat people like piece of dog shit. Maybe that's the difference.

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Re: Blame the US - Yep

The foreign currupt practices act only bans bribing of foreigners. Bribing American politicians in the form of campaign contributions is perfectly legal.

The Bribery Act bans it everywhere, UK included. The first prosecution was against a magistrate's court clerk who accepted bribes for "forgetting" to log motoring offences on the DVLA database.

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Re: Blame the US - Yep

If there was no law then the cost of bribes would increase. As it is, anyone wanting to accept money from a company subject to a bribery law understands that there's a practical limit to how much can be passed off as 'fees' before questions are asked. Therefore, the law as it is operated assists doing business in corrupt places by putting an effective limit on the amount.

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Anonymous Coward

Trade Shows

That sounds less like bribary on your part, and more like extortion on their part.

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Anonymous Coward

Bribery in the tech industry.

What sickens me is how "review" bribes and "promotional events" are used in the tech industry to get press coverage. Microsoft are the big offenders here (Free Xbox360 slim for every E3 attendee, and guess what everyone was raving about the following week... Acer Ferarri laptops if you say nice things about Vista... the list goes on and on....)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bribery in the tech industry.

It's (only) advertising if you are trying to get press coverage. And we know that's as bent as a 9-bob note.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bribery in the tech industry.

My former US employer enacted a double-standard.

One day, the rule fell down from on-high. We now were allowed absolutely nothing -- no vendor-sponsored lunches (which had been sandwiches at a local restaurant and no booze), no t-shirts, no LED-bouncy-balls, no pens-with-corporate-logos-on-them, nothing. Upper-level management continued to travel out-of-town to vendor-hosted-and-paid-for "product reviews" at vendors' HQs.

I'm not sure which pissed me off more: that management thought we peons would choose brand X over brand Y because brand X reps gave us a sandwich and a t-shirt, or that upper management continued -- post-new-rule-invocation -- on vendor-financed trips and ended up buying multi-million dollar software packages that were/are a pain in the ass to implement, and a significant, continuing drain on tech-time to maintain.

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Anonymous Coward

Oh for god's sake

If it's not acceptable over here then don't do it over there either. You and others like you are/were directly contributing to the coontinuation of this crap in other places and deserve to be called on it.

Frankly the corporate schmoozing deserves a bit of scrutiny too. I'm not sure it should be illegal as such, but it's ridiculous cronyism. In this so-called age of austerity, to have the upper echelons using the profits of business to treat each other to a jolly nice time while the proles scratch around in the mud seems a little offensive.

Also, sod the Olympics.

If this puts the UK at a disadvantage then so be it. It's time we got some backbone and stood up for a moral and just world. "Business friendly" seems these days to be nothing but a codeword for "screw the ethical consequences".

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disagree

In some places things just get done differently.

But yes - sod the Olympics.

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Unhappy

Re: Oh for god's sake

Ok- go for it.

. And don't forget to save the slush fund to replace the kit the now 'non-offended' dock workers have 'accidentally' dropped in the ocean.

It may not be gentlemanly conduct, but some people aren't gentlemen, and greasy-palmed officials doubly so.

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Re: Oh for god's sake

"If it's not acceptable over here then don't do it over there either. "

It's all very well saying "play a straight bat, keep it above board, don't play their dirty games", but, especially in the current economic climate, the vast majority of businesses are going to play whatever games they can and by whatever rules are available in order to clinch a contract.

You don't like it, I don't like it, but the other option is risking bankruptcy.

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Re: Oh for god's sake

Honesty and openness have been known to succeed in the past --- that's why businesses run by Quakers did so well.

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Thumb Down

Re: Oh for god's sake -@OP

How jolly enlightened of you to insist that we can teach those foreign johnnies how to do things properly. After all, they are just savages who don't know that taking a bribe is a bad thing, and, given time, they will learn what a big mistake they have been making all the time, and thank us for our beneficence.

Alternatively, what makes you think that "our" way is so right that it should be adopted by the world, who have been doing it the other way for centuries, if not millennia?

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WTF?

Re: Oh for god's sake @Potsherd

Did you ... did you just say bribe-taking is part of their culture, and it's an old tradition, so it's all good?

On the whole, countries with low corruption do better, and are nicer places to live. Unless you *like* your wealthy elite living by different rules. And don't even try to suggest that's the case in the UK - try countries where a powerful businessman can send a mob of gangsters to beat you up, and then have the police arrest you for objecting.

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What a shit headline

Whoever wrote that head line should be taken out and hosed down with cold water.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: What a shit headline

Well, it is rather warm, so why not?

C.

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Stop

Re: What a shit headline

Steady.

Hosepipe ban.

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Alert

Re: What a shit headline

Ha! check today's news...

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Trollface

I detect a lack of progressivism and state worship at El Reg.

Come on guys, with the right laws we can CHANGE REALITY FOR THE BETTER AND LIFT HUMANS TO A HIGHER SPIRITUAL PLANE. Whether they want to or not.

Now for that law imposing women quotas in boardrooms...

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Facepalm

Re: I detect a lack of progressivism and state worship at El Reg.

Well, yes, yes we can.

For instance, the ban on slavery. I'd say that did a pretty good job in changing reality for the better and lifting humans to a higher spiritual plane.

Or, hey, I can give you an example more suited to your likely political tastes, if you like, with thanks to George Macdonald Fraser, who is fond of pointing out that one of the terrible terrible acts of the heinous British Empire in India was to outlaw such quaint local customs as the burning alive of widows. That probably didn't do such a bad job in the spiritual plane stakes either.

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Re: I detect a lack of progressivism and state worship at El Reg.

Slavery has been banned?

I thought it was still going on.

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Thumb Down

Re: I detect a lack of progressivism and state worship at El Reg.

Depends how you define 'slavery'. If you mean explicit ownership, yes you're right. If you mean someone so financially tied to another entity (whether person or company) that any attempt to change anything will result in an extremely unpleasant outcome, no it isn't.

All the ban on slavery did was remove the absolute ownership angle, which was only ever a piece of paper. They simply implemented the control in a different way, so the situation didn't more on much. There are many hundreds of millions of people on this planet today working under conditions not unlike the slavery conditions of before. So, has it really moved on that much?

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Re: I detect a lack of progressivism and state worship at El Reg.

I think that's frankly a reduction too far. The various bans on slavery were absolutely landmarks in the history of their respective nations; ask any American how important the liberation of domestic slaves was. The British abolition process is less well remembered by Brits now but it was absolutely seismic at the time, and it was a huge factor in the development of enlightenment and modern thought regarding absolute human rights.

Is it right to be concerned about how many people in the world still live in terrible conditions, or those who still are in actual slavery? Sure. But is it right to dismiss the significance of the British and American anti-slavery reforms? I think it absolutely isn't. The abolition of slavery was an inevitable consequence of the development of enlightenment values in both countries (and others which went through similar processes), but the abolition and more importantly the _debates_ on abolition were also a vital _part_ of that development. I think it's vastly wrong-headed and probably dangerous to suggest that abolition of slavery wasn't really significant.

Sorry, closet history grad here...

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Anonymous Coward

How can an article on this subject not mention US FCPA?

Several commentards seem to be more aware of legal (US FCPA) and practical (BAe, Blair, SaudiArabia, Serious Fraud Office) reality than El Reg's favourite precious metals barrowboy.

I suppose there's no bribery and corruption goes in the precious metals sector.

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Thumb Down

Re: How can an article on this subject not mention US FCPA?

"I suppose there's no bribery and corruption goes in the precious metals sector."

You must have missed the bit where the author said:

"At one point, working in Russia, I needed to get cheap railway prices out of the Russian railroads to make the numbers on a metals shipment add up. The only way known to do this was to make a deal with the North Koreans who had special state-set prices on said railways. Which is how I found myself inside the N. Korean embassy in Moscow handing over $10,000 in crisp notes to their KGB-style guy after the successful conclusion of the shipment."

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Re: How can an article on this subject not mention US FCPA?

Strangely, the FCPA does allow payments which under the Bribery Act would not be allowed.

For example, in the very large supermarket chain case being talked about right now.

Did the gringos pay the usual going rate to get the papers through the planning process quickly? Or did they make the payments to get the papers through the planning process?

Both would be illegal under the Bribery Act. Only the latter under the FCPA.

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Facepalm

Catalona, Spain

No, I'd say the southern line can be definitely be drawn above the Pyrenees.

The writer hasn't heard of Millet, Pretoria, banks 'disappearing' people's savings, 3%... the latest one which sprang up just last week is the ombudsman for the region going off on jollies paid for with his organisations' budget which comes out of general taxation.

And no, it's not good to bribe.

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FAIL

Re: Catalona, Spain

Downvoter not aware of the recent report by Transparency International that found a clear link between the PIIGS and corruption?

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Re: Catalona, Spain

Well above the Pyrenees, in fact: OLAF (the EU's anti-corruption office) is under suspicion: see for example http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/3464034/Now-the-European-Unions-own-anti-fraud-watchdog-Olaf-is-under-investigation.html

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Anonymous Coward

Eastern Europe...

I think this law will put us out of the running for any business in Eastern Europe.

A close friend of mine has recently purchased some property over there, and he said that to keep the gears turning efficiently, every meeting was conducted with a suitable stiff drink, and a brown envelope changing hands. He said it wasn't so much under the table, but right on top of it!

I've personally bunged a wedge of cash to night club bouncers to get into a club (a party of 12 English males are looked upon with suspicion in Krakow). It's the way things work. It's not seen as an insult to their integrity. There was actually a negotiation as to the suitable number of notes required.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Eastern Europe...

That is one way. There is another.

Look at what big Russian companies are doing. Every time they have to do a major acquisition or "facilitate a privatisation" in a foreign country they hire a "cultural background" consultant which does an analysis of the cultural background and what to do and what not. I have Russian friends who have worked in this capacity and they earn enough for some black caviar served by scantily clad long legged ladies on top of the "bread and butter". However, as result their work their customers get away with a fraction of the "corporate expenses budget". They often do not need to bribe at all - they simply create appropriate "vested interest" opportunities. Just look at how gas exports from Russia were structured to Ukraine and a few other countries as an example for this.

Compared to that UK, US come with their "own rulebook" which ends up in them having to carpet bribe. That is frankly stupid, counterproductive and waste of money. There a better way - if you do not want to do your homework in advance and pay for local knowledge you should use (hire) a local who (if needed) will precision bribe for you.

I also own stuff in Eastern Europe and I have never paid a bribe myself. In fact, one of the very few times I have had to use a local "lubrication facilitator" he managed to get away without bribing anyone, just by knowing the right people and calling debts for old favours.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Eastern Europe...

"There a better way - if you do not want to do your homework in advance and pay for local knowledge you should use (hire) a local who (if needed) will precision bribe for you."

The FCPA specifically covers this. Paying someone else to bribe for you is old had and covered by the legislation.

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