Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Results of Grits corporate bribery survey: 92% say don't conceal identity of corporate bribe givers

Downpresser man
You can't bribe no one
Them no want no money

Them run'f money

That money get funny

- Peter Tosh, Downpresser Man

Without further ado, it's time to reveal the results of Grits' corporate bribery survey, inspired by two recent cases where central Texas soldiers were accused of taking bribes as part of the Iraq war procurement process.

Of course, it's not just soldiers, jailers and border patrol agents who accept bribes, but all sorts of government officials. This survey, though, in large part reacting to recent events, focused on bribery cases involving Iraq war procurement. Let me know any additional thoughts you have on the subject in the comments.

Question One: Should federal prosecutors conceal the names in indictments of companies that allegedly bribed US servicemen in order to get government contracts?

92% of those responding to Grits' survey agree that federal prosecutors should NOT conceal names of companies alleged to have bribed soldiers or US officials. I regret now not asking those who said the information should be concealed WHY they think so. Though this is not a scientific survey, this was clearly a minority opinion. But it's also the US Department of Justice view. Just like in Communist China, US prosecutors are vigorously pursuing those who took bribes and apparently letting those who bribed them get away scot-free.

Question Two: How should corporations that engage in bribery be punished?

The most popular answer (61%) was to forbid those companies from receiving any future contracts, followed closely (60%) by large fines paid by the companies. Twenty nine percent supported prosecuting "CEOs, managers, and directly involved parties," while more people (41%) thought only directly involved individuals should be prosecuted. Perhaps Grits just has a particular audience, but I'm surprised more people didn't support imprisonment for bribery crimes - Grits readers seemed to prefer to hit companies in the pocket book.

Question Three: If a soldier accepts a bribe is that a worse crime than the corporation that bribed him, not as bad, or is it an equal offense?

Slightly more people (17%) considered the company more culpable than the soldier (14%). One reader offered the canny insight, Remember Eve in the garden? She sinned, but the guy offering the bribe was really, really evil." The vast majority of Grits readers (67%) thought both the briber and the bribee were equally culpable.

Question Four: Does privatizing certain military functions to contractors make the procurement system more susceptible to bribery?

More than half of Grits readers (51%) thought companies are less accountable than the government when it comes to bribery, though 45% said they didn't know, that there has been corruption among both government and business. Hardly anybody believed the government was inherently more corrupt.

Question Five: Assuming for a moment two recent Texas cases may be the tip of the iceberg, how common do you think corporate bribery has become in US military procurement in the Iraq war?

The response to this question surprised me more than any other. Y'all are more cynical than I am! A whopping 51% suggested that such bribery is "very common - that's how most companies get contracts." Another 34% said it was " Common but not ubiquitous: There are still lots of good companies out there." That's how I would have answered the question. Very few people believed bribery isn't an integral part of the military procurement system.

Question Six: What should happen to foreign contractors caught bribing US military officials?

Sixty percent of you believe when that happens the companies assets in the US should be seized in retaliation, and nearly as many think such companies should be denied DoD contracts in the future. Thirty-eight percent said involved parties should be extradited and prosecuted, while just 11 percent supported punitive sanctions against the company's home government.

* * *
The most striking results to me in this survey are the extent to which respondents believe corporate bribery - actual, felonious bribery - is extremely common, that people did not want to let corporate bribe givers off the hook, and a relative consensus about appropriate punishment: Denial of future contracts, large fines, and seizure of assets.

Downpresser man, where you gonna run to?
For now, it seems, the Downpresser man can still run to seek protection from federal prosecutors. They don't seem interested in prosecuting or even exposing corporate crooks, but only common soldiers who succumb to temptation. I wonder what it would take to alter that disgraceful exercise of prosecutorial discretion?

BLOGVERSATION: White Collar Crime Prof reacts to the survey, and I responded in the comments.


Anonymous said...

The common soldier does not have the resources to fight back.

Prosecutors are harvesting the low hanging fruit. They are scared of big corporations ability to hire lawyers.J ustice is about money in this Capitalist Society.

The courts are responsible for protecting the rights (as in Bill of Rights) of all citizens against the whims of a majority. The courts should protect the rights of the "common soldier" in this case to equal justice. The courts don't have the resources to ensure that all criminals are prosecuted equally.

Criminal justice in this country is a fantasy, it does not exist!

Unknown said...

I responded as you did - but have since reconsidered. It's peer pressure: everyone else who actually gets contracts and kicks my butt financially bribes officials so I need to do so myself to remain competitive. This kind of peer pressure works for companies scouring the globe for slave wage labor rates and minimal environmental and workplace safety. It's called "race to the bottom" and fuels our capitalist society. We invest heavily in countries where basic human rights is a detriment to business.

Anonymous said...

In foreign countries, the laws are different, the cultures are different, business is conducted according to the local 'norms'.

I might also have a different answer in such a country.

I believe we're talking about how the law is prosecuted in the U.S. for this survey.

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