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Sun Microsystems May Have Violated Bribery Law

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the my-friend-abraham-lincoln-asks-you-to-look-the-other-way dept.

Sun Microsystems 111

Afforess writes "In a new file submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Sun Microsystems admitted that 'we have identified potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the resolution of which could possibly have a material effect on our business.' The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act makes it 'unlawful to make a payment to a foreign official for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person.' Yet, Sun would not release further details, only that it 'took remedial action.' Oracle, the new owner of Sun Microsystems, also said that they had prior knowledge of the infraction, yet also refused to release any details."

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Since most people don't RTFA (5, Informative)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887777)

For those of you that won't RTFA, this may not be a big deal and is fairly common.

For example, in 2007, networking provider Alcatel-Lucent agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle charges that Lucent Technologies, before it was bought by Alcatel SA in 2006, illegally paid for hundreds of trips for Chinese officials to win contracts. In a separate case, IBM Corp. agreed in 2000 to pay $300,000 to settle allegations that its Argentina subsidiary was involved in bribing officials of a government-owned bank to win a contract to upgrade the bank's computer systems.

Re:Since most people don't RTFA (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27887949)

Everybody's doing it. Everybody knows everybody's doing it. There's no jail time and the fines are light, so corporations are happy to break the law and pay the money. The government doesn't actually care about foreign corruption. It's basically a tax on doing business abroad.

Re:Since most people don't RTFA (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27888177)

They DO care about foreign corruption. Thats money that could have been paid to US government officials.

Re:Since most people don't RTFA (1)

Zarluk (976365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27889789)

Then, perhaps they should investigate what happened here in Portugal... strange businness occurred between Microsoft and the government.

Re:Since most people don't RTFA (1)

MrPhilby (1493541) | more than 5 years ago | (#27893045)

Indeed it did and now all the local telecoms are busy selling wireless internet to schoolchildren, even if they can't get a signal. Magalhaes google it.

Re:Since most people don't RTFA (2, Interesting)

squidguy (846256) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888829)

There's no jail time and the fines are light
Oh really? Check out the fine they slapped on Siemens last year. 1.6 billion USD... See http://www.secactions.com/?p=655 [secactions.com]

Re:Since most people don't RTFA (2, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 5 years ago | (#27891159)

1) Not a US company. 2) Largest ever doesn't count as "typical" use.

Re:Since most people don't RTFA (0, Offtopic)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887973)

I always thought this rule only applied to Defense Contractors like Northrop or Lockheed (we get lectured about it constantly). I had no idea it applies to regular businesses too. Interesting.

Also:

Can someone tell me what's wrong with Slashdot's front page? I want my low-bandwidth, dialup-friendly version back but despite changing my preference multiple times, I'm getting some frakked-up yellow-and-white monstrosity.

Re:Since most people don't RTFA (5, Funny)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888121)

Can someone tell me what's wrong with Slashdot's front page? I want my low-bandwidth, dialup-friendly version back but despite changing my preference multiple times, I'm getting some frakked-up yellow-and-white monstrosity.

you have to bribe someone to get what you want

Re:Since most people don't RTFA (0, Offtopic)

LukePH (1065930) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888269)

Can someone tell me what's wrong with Slashdot's front page? I want my low-bandwidth, dialup-friendly version back but despite changing my preference multiple times, I'm getting some frakked-up yellow-and-white monstrosity.

Having the same problem, thought my firefox profile was mucked up, took a while to worked it was the low-bandwidth option mucked up.

Re:Since most people don't RTFA (2, Insightful)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888307)

Can someone tell me what's wrong with Slashdot's front page? I want my low-bandwidth, dialup-friendly version back but despite changing my preference multiple times, I'm getting some frakked-up yellow-and-white monstrosity.

Ditto. It looks like it's telling my browser to render it by some RSS settings. I see a lot of the tags like "em" "/em".

Is it really that hard for you idiots running slashdot to leave well-enough alone? If it ain't broke, don't sodomize it beyond recognition.

Coming from Pakistan.... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27888355)

...and settling in US, I have seen a lot of bribery in Action, here and back home.

Place where I work, large bank here in US, a contractor wins all the contracts for software development. Not because he is competitive, but because he sponsors the directors horse racing team. On paper its clean, XYZ has a horse racing team, PQR sponsors the team. In the bank, Mr XYZ awards all contracts to Mr PQR.

Back home, PQR would have just handed over keys to a new car to XYZ.

That is the only difference.

West has learned how to legalize bribe.

So, bribery violations "settled" by more bribery.. (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888363)

For those of you that won't RTFA, this may not be a big deal and is fairly common.

For example, in 2007, networking provider Alcatel-Lucent agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle charges that Lucent Technologies, before it was bought by Alcatel SA in 2006, illegally paid for hundreds of trips for Chinese officials to win contracts. In a separate case, IBM Corp. agreed in 2000 to pay $300,000 to settle allegations that its Argentina subsidiary was involved in bribing officials of a government-owned bank to win a contract to upgrade the bank's computer systems.

It's nice to know our bribery laws basically equate to "where's our share - signed: the US government"

Re:So, bribery violations "settled" by more briber (1)

SterlingSylver (1122973) | more than 5 years ago | (#27889509)

Not to excuse our government, but what other option do they really have? Put the multinational corporation's headquarters in jail? Hitting a corporation with a fine is speaking the only language that it cares about.

Re:So, bribery violations "settled" by more briber (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#27892395)

Not to excuse our government, but what other option do they really have? Put the multinational corporation's headquarters in jail? Hitting a corporation with a fine is speaking the only language that it cares about.

How about imposing sanctions on their ability to market products in that nation, or jailing the executives responsible (even if oversaes by using the afore mentioned sanctions as leverage).

No no.. that would have actual TEETH.

if top corps were under threat of instantly losing their ability to sell, or instantly losing their top talent to the depths of federal prison, they would be stricter about their infractions.

Re:Since most people don't RTFA (0, Redundant)

section321 (191303) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888835)

And to those of you that aren't accounts (thank your lucky stars) you need to understand that the phrase "material" has a very specific meaning in this context. A material item in your financial statements is an item large enough to affect the decision of the people who use financial statements to make decisions. (e.g. investors, banks, regulators, etc...) When the financial auditors start their audit, they will calculate a materiality threshold, above which items must be disclosed on the financial statements. The potential fine for this FCPA violation exceeds that materiality threshold. I don't know what Sun's materiality threshold is, but I'm sure its not small.

Also, on the topic of FCPA, while the article cites some smaller FCPA fines it misses the recent large fine levied against Siemen in December 2008. The total hit to Siemens included a fine of $450 MILLION plus disgorgement of $350 MILLION in "tainted profits." If that isn't a "big deal" I don't know what is. It takes a lot of revenue to replace $800,000,000 in cash.

Because this is big enough that Sun disclosed it on their financial statements before the Justice Department has issued its fine indicates to me this is likely to be a bigger rather then smaller issue. Foreign bribery is fairly common, but it doesn't mean getting caught isn't a big deal.

Re:Since most people don't RTFA (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 5 years ago | (#27892685)

"The total hit to Siemens included a fine of $450 MILLION plus disgorgement of $350 MILLION in "tainted profits." If that isn't a "big deal" I don't know what is. It takes a lot of revenue to replace $800,000,000 in cash."

And then one goes "mode tinfoil on" and asks himself if the fact that Siemens is not a USA company could have something to do with the magnitude of fines.

Re:Since most people don't RTFA (2, Insightful)

INT_QRK (1043164) | more than 5 years ago | (#27890185)

In many (but not limited to) developing countries, especially those with oligarchic societies and institutions, what we in the west may assume to be "bribery" may just be another name for "respect for local authority and traditions" in conformance with local laws and customs. The company that "respects local authority and traditions," may have a chance (license, permission, contract) to do business in that country. Those who don't may complain self-righteously, but from a distance, please. Is there an ethical reward or societal good in just not doing business in that country, all other factors being equal, while your less self-righteous competitor does? This question is worth five extra credit points...

Re:Since most people don't RTFA (1)

r0b!n (1009159) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894297)

For those of you that won't RTFA, this may not be a big deal and is fairly common.

Microsoft and OOXML

Comments? We don't need no steenkin comments! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27887785)

nt

In many countries, no bribery = no business (4, Insightful)

LatencyKills (1213908) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887789)

And it's naive to think otherwise. You want to do serious governmental business in Saudi Arabia/Egypt/Jordan? Some shiek/prince/royal family member is going to get some quid pro quo. And quite frankly it's more or less true in America as well. You think those Congressional reelection campaign coffers are going to fill themselves?

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (5, Insightful)

toppavak (943659) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888021)

And that attitude, especially among instructors (I've spoken to several business school faculty espousing this view before), prevents this from ever changing. At some point one has to make a decision about what ideals are worth holding on to. Having spent a lot of time in a country where corruption at every level is rampant (India) and seeing many successful businesses run cleanly, I don't believe your equation is entirely accurate. It is a decision on our part as individuals as to whether we want to actively propagate corruption in developing countries or not. To preach ethical practices in business, engineering and science and yet consider those practices to be naive is nothing short of ludicrous.

With the amount of harm it does to developing economies and the people that live there, doing business this way should be treated as a crime against humanity. It retards the progression of democracy and social justice abroad and creates future demand for corruption. Just because this was the way an older generation operated doesn't mean the new generations of leaders coming out of colleges now have to continue their mistakes. It all starts with the realization that one person can actually change the world- for good or for bad. The question you have to ask yourself is simple: which way do you want to change it?

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27888091)

Try and do ANY business in ANY African country without paying brides at some level. Try it, I dare you.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (4, Informative)

toppavak (943659) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888353)

Universal nut shellers in Uganda. I worked with an NGO to create a self-sustaining social enterprise that manufactures and sells nut shellers (at profit) to peanut growers in the country. We never gave a single bribe (we couldn't afford to even if we needed to!). Its hard, yes, but its not impossible.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (1)

Entrope (68843) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888137)

Bribery is an unwritten law in most of the countries where you see this kind of action. Where is your venom for them? Why should these countries not suffer embargoes or heightened tariffs because their governments permit -- and even require -- corrupt business practices?

If and when international law comes down hard on officials who solicit bribes, I will agree that it should come down hard on the other side of that corrupt coin. Unfortunately, the people who will have to agree to that law are the people who accept the bribes. If you can solve that problem, you'll probably solve most of the other problems in government at the same time.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (1)

toppavak (943659) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888195)

Thank you for your reply, to an extent I heartily agree with you, these governments themselves need to take action as well. But if everyone waits for the other side to take action, nothing will ever happen. I know that every now and then a number of these countries do make something of an effort- whether its genuine or for show, to clean themselves up. A couple years ago India through several politicians out of parliament for corruption. China hung several government officials for the same crimes as well. Granted these were relatively isolated incidents, but I think if we and the companies, NGOs etc that we run make the first move, we can build a lot of support from the people in these countries that do honestly want to see an end to corruption. The bottom line is that somebody has to act responsibly first and if we as Americans/Europeans/Developed Nations feel we have reason to be proud for being civilized and a shining beacon to the world, we need to step up to the plate and lead that movement.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#27889489)

If U.S. businesses refuse to participate in bribes, it is essentially an embargo.

As for getting rid of corrupt government officials, it may come down to a few good lynchings by dissatisfied constituents.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (2, Interesting)

LatencyKills (1213908) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888171)

I agree with you completely, but if there's some mechanism to produce such change I don't see it. Just to take an example with which I'm familiar, say you're a large defense contractor and you want to sell something to Saudi Arabia. That's absolutely going to require a little something to their defense minister to even get your proposal in the door. You don't want to pay to play? Fine - Raytheon/BAE Systems/Lockheed/Kollsman/Northrop/etc etc etc are all perfectly willing to take your place. Enforcement of the rules is spotty at best. For every company that gets caught, a dozen more just did business, and the US doesn't necessarily even want to catch you. Oh, on paper they do, but in reality you're talking billions of dollars of taxable income, and if it doesn't go to a US contractor, China/Russia/India/Japan/etc etc etc are more than willing to fill the void. Unless you suddenly create a worldwide attack of conscience and morals, I'm not even certain how change can begin to happen.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (2, Insightful)

toppavak (943659) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888271)

Its definitely a big problem. It takes a certain critical mass to achieve change at the scales we need. I think inevitably its going to start with small companies and individuals, almost certainly in a set of industries where the lack of a "competitive advantage" based on deep pockets doesn't hurt as much. Just because we can be idealists doesn't mean we can't be realistic about achieving our goals as well. Public perception is a big deal and people appreciate honest, transparent efforts on the part of companies and organizations.

Take Nyaya Health [nyayahealth.org] for example. They do an amazing job at maintaining full transparency. Granted, this is not a commercial organization, but the principle is similar. People will back the honest underdog that's being overrun by the corrupt multi-billion dollar company, its a feeling that the general populace (both domestically and abroad) can empathize with. Eventually, public support can reach a critical mass of its own after which the government can no longer ignore the PR that would result from not punishing the corrupt when there's enough business running clean and enough popular support behind the ideals they stand for. Defense may certainly be one of the last industries to escape the corruption (if it ever can!) but I think there are plenty of other industries that act to lead the way- software and healthcare are two big ones that could and should take point on fighting corruption. Software has the advantage of leveraging the FOSS movement and the ideals it represents. The healthcare industry should theoretically represent the most basic needs of people but often is one of the more corrupt. I think a similar movement to FOSS needs to occur in medical tech for developing countries for this to change. The traditional model for medtech breaks down as soon as you leave North America/Europe/Japan/Australia. I'm actually currently working with a scientist in Boston to try to get an open source med-tech group started while I finish my own scientific training.

Its a complicated problem, but I think a few individuals with a little bit of ingenuity will go a long way. We've seen how small groups of people have changed the world before. In the end it takes a strong community willing to stand up for their ideals to turn the tides. Will it happen in the next 5 years? Probably not. But if we don't try now, its never going to just miraculously right itself.

Sorry for the long-winded / ranting response.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 5 years ago | (#27892791)

"You don't want to pay to play? Fine - Raytheon/BAE Systems/Lockheed/Kollsman/Northrop/etc etc etc are all perfectly willing to take your place. "

They all American companies or have heavy interests on the American market so they are controllable.

"For every company that gets caught, a dozen more just did business"

There you have the problem then, not on the other side of the fence.

"and the US doesn't necessarily even want to catch you. Oh, on paper they do, but in reality you're talking billions of dollars of taxable income, and if it doesn't go to a US contractor, China/Russia/India/Japan/etc etc etc are more than willing to fill the void."

Regarding American companies they'll take the taxes no matter what; regarding non-american ones, they know they will play by the rules if they really see strong commitment on the American side since they cannot afford losing the American market in exchange for even Saudi Arabia. All you say are nothing but lame excuses (not from you but from "the system") to sustain current 'statu quo' by those most benefited from them (it seems curious that for big powers "the change can't happen" when it happens to be on their own interest -Raytheon dixit, but "we can lead the change for the better" when, again, happens to be on their best interest -Blackwater dixit).

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (1)

Darby (84953) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894373)

They all American companies or have heavy interests on the American market so they are controllable.

I think you mean "In Control". Heck, Ike warned about that specific industry and it's continued to be the worst threat to America for nearly 50 years of huge private profits at the public expense.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888251)

And that attitude, especially among instructors (I've spoken to several business school faculty espousing this view before), prevents this from ever changing. At some point one has to make a decision about what ideals are worth holding on to.

That's true, and a corporation has no morals or ideas, only profit or failure.

Perhaps we should rethink corporations.

Frankly, since Quid Pro Quo is very much the way things are done all over the world, this is only an attack by "The System" on the way the rest of the world does business. In the USA, the bar for bribery has simply been raised. Also, it is designed such that only people in "The System" can participate in bribery. It's called campaign funding, and you can only use money which was "properly" raised (e.g. taxed) to participate... And you need MUCH MORE money under our system. We have every bit as much bribery as compared to the GDP, but only the moneyed are allowed to participate.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (1)

toppavak (943659) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888333)

I think you're close to the right track. I'm not sure what the right track is, but I think you're heading in that general direction. The problem is in the motivation and mission behind corporations, right? When the business' mission is to generate as large a financial return as possible, things start to go a little awry. For this reason, I'm extremely interested in the growing social entrepreneurship movement- spanning the whole spectrum from socially-conscious business to financially self-sustaining non-profits. There's a great student group out of my area (The Raleigh-Durham area in NC) called SEEDS [seedstudents.org] working to study this movement and help gather resources to support it. There's also been an interest recently in Social Venture Capital, the idea of investing not just for a financial return but for a social return as well and making that a core part of the business. Do a Google search on the topic, there's a lot of really interesting stuff out there. There's also a book that I've heard recommended a lot, although I haven't read it yet, called How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurship and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein. I think its a fascinating topic and even just looking at what a single organization has been able to accomplish, such as Ashoka [ashoka.org] , gives me a lot of hope for the future.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888423)

Probably the best thing would be for all businesses to be co-ops. You can buy your way in or work your way in. There is no proxy voting, and the co-op has a charter.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (1)

toppavak (943659) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888531)

Well, even companies have a statement of incorporation that's essentially what a charter is for co-ops. I don't think the problem is necessarily the structure of the corporation itself but the motivations of the people who run them and the stated goals and missions of that corporation. The way I've heard it described before is that a company has a vision and a mission, its vision is tied to the products and services it offers and its mission is to execute well enough on its vision to make money. There's nothing wrong with profit (even non-profits make profit, its just a difference in where that money goes afterward), what I think is problematic, however, is simply that most for-profit companies work only to maximize profit instead of trying to strike a balance between profit and impact. There are plenty of socially responsible companies out there, Burt's Bees is an interesting one if you're interested in studying these kinds of things. It all boils down to the company's founders caring enough to define the company's statement of incorporation and mission to be about more than profit maximization. Burt's Bees was bought out by a private equity firm but the original management fought for (and won) the continuation of their philosophy of fair business practices and environment-friendly operations and products. They also made millions of dollars off of it. Not a bad deal for caring about the community you live and operate in.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (1)

mrlibertarian (1150979) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888557)

It retards the progression of democracy and social justice abroad and creates future demand for corruption.

I disagree that all bribery is bad. As Murray Rothbard writes:

"What of bribery of government officials? Here a distinction must be made between "aggressive" and "defensive" bribery; the first should be considered improper and aggressive, whereas the latter should be considered proper and legitimate. Consider a typical "aggressive bribe": a Mafia leader bribes police officials to exclude other, competing operators of gambling casinos from a certain territorial area. Here, the Mafioso acts in collaboration with the government to coerce competing gambling proprietors. The Mafioso is, in this case, an initiator, and accessory, to governmental aggression against his competitors. On the other hand, a "defensive bribe" has a radically different moral status. In such a case, for example, Robinson, seeing that gambling casinos are outlawed in a certain area, bribes policemen to allow his casino to operate - a perfectly legitimate response to an unfortunate situation."

"Defensive bribery, in fact, performs an important social function throughout the world. For, in many countries, business could not be transacted at all without the lubricant of bribery; in this way crippling and destructive regulations and exactions can be avoided. A "corrupt government," then, is not necessarily a bad thing; compared to an "incorruptible government" whose officials enforce the laws with great severity, "corruption" can at least allow a partial flowering of voluntary transactions and actions in a society."

The State versus Liberty [lewrockwell.com]

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (1)

toppavak (943659) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888845)

I think your last point is a straw man- a government that cannot be bribed is not necessarily then a government that cannot be changed especially since even theoretically "incorruptible" governments have systems in place to allow the interpretation of that law in the place of extenuating circumstances and questions regarding the intent of the law. Connecting that process of interpretation to monetary incentives is just... a really really bad idea. Bribes make change easier, but create a system of expectation in which bribes become almost necessary to enact that change. We need to work to reverse that expectation that has built up over the years so that we can allow democratic governments to function properly. If "defensive bribery" exists then "offensive bribery" must also be possible. Instead we should focus on getting the democratic systems that already exist to correct "unfortunate situations". Defensive bribery is NOT a legitimate response, especially when it is still technically ILLEGAL. The proper response, by your reasoning, is therefore to either democratically legalize bribery in which case it then becomes a legitimate response (still of dubious morality), or to use the same democratic effort to just legalize casinos, which is ALWAYS a legitimate response in a democratic system of government.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 5 years ago | (#27892817)

"On the other hand, a "defensive bribe" has a radically different moral status. In such a case, for example, Robinson, seeing that gambling casinos are outlawed in a certain area, bribes policemen to allow his casino to operate - a perfectly legitimate response to an unfortunate situation."
Defensive bribery, in fact, performs an important social function throughout the world."

Yes, I can see how a drug dealer bribering local police so he can operate despite the fact that drug dealing is outlawed is a perfectly legitimate response to an unfortunate situation and how it performs an important social function throught the world.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (2, Insightful)

cenc (1310167) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888611)

Sorry, but you miss the fact that most of these economies would not function without bribery. There simply is not sufficient rewards for people to do their job.

For example, an official that only makes a few hundred dollars a month. Are you really expecting them to give a dam when their family is starving?

Corruption in many places is simply market forces at work, where the market does not work.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27891633)

> most of these economies would not function without bribery. There simply is not sufficient rewards for people to do their job.

So the positive feedback loop of corruption is "market forces" but the choice of whether to bribe a foreign official - who is near the top of that corruption loop - is NOT a market force and can't make a difference?

There are other folks who think like you . . . (3, Interesting)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888613)

Transparency International: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transparency_International [wikipedia.org] and http://www.transparency.org/ [transparency.org]

It's a tough road to take, but if everybody tolerates corruption, it ain't gonna go away, and it certainly hurts more than it helps.

Bribery stories are my favorite from folks doing business overseas. In order to avoid direct bribery, some companies hire local "consultants," who get paid an obscene fee to help land the contract. What they do with their money doesn't concern the company paying the fee; the bribe is indirect.

My all time favorite was from a government auditor who visited Korea to check up on three local suppliers to the US military. The suppliers made dinner arrangements, and told the auditor where to meet them. When he arrived at the restaurant, there were the three suppliers, with four prostitutes seated at the table, with one empty seat.

What's so funny? The auditor had brought his wife along to see Korea, and came with him to the restaurant. One prostitute got her pay early, and the mood at the table afterwards was uncomfortable.

Re:There are other folks who think like you . . . (1)

toppavak (943659) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888869)

Thanks for the links! I wasn't aware of this group. Hilarious story, by the way.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (1)

alukin (184606) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888735)

Therefore every American company must rise corruption level in every country where business is possible. Insightful! Brilliant!

Oh, some companies can not do that, they do not pay bribes here in America and do not sell 8 ears old WinXP to air forces.

Bill Gates (1)

Weezul (52464) | more than 5 years ago | (#27889221)

Bill Gates is the best example of a "clean" business man being massively successful. Bill's main assets were personality traits, having an parent who was an IP lawyer, and considerable good luck. He definitely engaged in abhorrent business practices, but he never bribe U.S. government politicians until the anti-trust people started coming after him.

I'd say your best bet is avoiding the politician protection racket for as long as possible. It always seems like powerful companies get massive pay offs from public money for the very small investment required to get politicians re-elected, but this ignores the massive "retainer" of getting politicians re-elected year after year. So play the game Bill style, stay away until they make you join the protection racket.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27890125)

"And that attitude, especially among instructors (I've spoken to several business school faculty espousing this view before), prevents this from ever changing. At some point one has to make a decision about what ideals are worth holding on to."

You must be an academic.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27890127)

It's not even as simple as that -- what's the ethical difference between bribery and tipping? You don't have to point to countries outside the States to talk about that. We've made tipping an expected function of restaurant and hotel and taxi service. We don't raise an eyebrow when it's escalated to a "tip" at the front desk to get a good table, or a table when there's a line-up. That's not a bribe - that's "sharp practices"; what business people are supposed to do.

If you're not going to address that foundation, then you're not addressing the issue.

Truth (1)

mahadiga (1346169) | more than 5 years ago | (#27893923)

Every PROJECT a Contractor executes in India
  • he must give 10% of project value as COMMISSION aka PARTY FUND to govt irrespective of the political party in Government (Congress, BJP, Communists etc)
  • he must spend 20% on local goons and officials so that they do not DELAY, DISRUPT and DESTROY the project work
  • he gets 20% profit before TAX

Hence the ACTUAL project is WORTH only 50% in India.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (1)

s_p_oneil (795792) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888045)

"First of all, you have to grease the local politicians for the sudden zoning problems that always come up. Then there's the kickbacks to the carpenters. And if you plan on using any cement in this building, I'm sure the teamsters would like to have a little chat with you, and that'll cost you. Don't forget a little something for the building inspectors. There's the long-term costs, such as waste disposal. I don't know if you're familiar with who runs that business, but I assure you it's not the boy scouts."

Rodney Dangerfield - Back to School

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27888115)

If more government officials were convicted and got "greased" in their prison cells the problem would go away a lot faster. America likes to excoriate and try the officials of other countries, but when it's our own who have seeded the misery and suffering of others well, then, 'there's no use in looking backwards, we need to move ahead'.

America, truly the last best hope for Man, but her biggest export is hypocrisy.

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (1)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888145)

And what did Mr. Dangerfield get for speaking truly? Certainly not respect...

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27890589)

You might believe that, but those who work at Sun do not.

From the very first day I started working for Sun, till even now, there are repeated reminders about dealing with everyone with honesty and integrity.

You'll note that *Sun* themselves are the one that reported this violation to the SEC, and not the other way around.

There is an entire department of people at Sun devoted to ensuring the integrity of Sun's dealings inside and outside the company.

This sort of behaviour is not acceptable, and I feel a little less proud today to know that my employer has somehow been part of this.

You can say view this statement however you like, but as an employee I can tell you beyond any doubt that many of us here strongly believe in dealing with everyone with honesty and integrity whether they are co-workers or customers.

Oh, and I'm just an engineer, not a manager, so don't think it is my job to tow the company line...

Re:In many countries, no bribery = no business (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 5 years ago | (#27892865)

"Oh, and I'm just an engineer, not a manager, so don't think it is my job to tow the company line..."

Probably not. But it is not your job to gain contracts around the world, either. Maybe this explains your different point of view.

par for the course (4, Insightful)

Pompatus (642396) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887793)

There are quite a few countries who's culture is substantially different from the United States in which bribery is considered standard business practice. If you dont bribe an official in one of those countries, you dont get anything done.

Re:par for the course (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887967)

yep. If you have employees in india they had to pay bribes probably to get on the train to to work, to buy a radio, get government ID, buy a Television.

Everyone knows this law really means "don't bribe anyone in a country that would be outraged if you were caught, or don't get caught".

Maybe if Sun had been able to pay better bribes, to more relevant people they would have gotten better contracts and wouldn't be in the mess they are now. That is the sad reality of doing business in most of the world.

Re:par for the course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27888029)

That's why I don't have employees in India.

Then again, it's also because they can't program worth shit.

Re:par for the course (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27888009)

How come Americans barely know anything about about forign cultures until it comes to bribery? Then you all become experts in foreign relations. by labeling a country as a bribery friendly one you doom the officals to corruption and its people to poverty and squalor

Re:par for the course (2, Informative)

value_added (719364) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888219)

There are quite a few countries who's culture is substantially different from the United States in which bribery is considered standard business practice. If you dont bribe an official in one of those countries, you dont get anything done.

No doubt true, but what's standard business practices today may not be the same tomorrow. Banking secrecy laws in countries like Switzerland, for example, have long been considered inviolate, but that's hardly the case today, is it? Chances are good that even more changes are coming.

As for corruption, I'd suggest that the choices made by businesses are just that: choices. You can debate their relative merits and/or provide rationalisations, but ultimately, those choices remain subject to law. The overarching issue, then, becomes one of enforcement.

For those who aren't news junkies or C-SPAN fans, the following, taken from a randomly selected link [constructionweblinks.com] , may offer some insight as to the direction the new administration may be headed:

To the extent there is a shift in prosecutorial priorities by the new administration, it is likely that this shift will not be felt in 2009. This is largely because the current leaders of DOJ, SEC and FBI already have declared their intention to step up FCPA enforcement in 2009. For example, DOJ recently announced that it expects the trend of increased enforcement to increase in 2009, "given the significant number of matters that we have under investigation. The number of individual prosecutions has risen, and that is not an accident. It is our view that to have a credible deterrent effect, people have to go to jail. People have to be prosecuted where appropriate. This is a federal crime, it's not fun and games." 54/ Federal agencies such as the FBI have budgeted increased expenditures for FCPA enforcement in 2009. 55/ If there is relief in sight from the new administration, it is not readily apparent for 2009.

Re:par for the course (1)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888385)

It's not a bribe. It's just a red envelope... for good luck. Happy New Year... in May.

I joke but that's what actually happened when my grandmother had a telephone line installed in China. She wanted to make sure it doesn't mysterious get cut after the installation is done.

Re:par for the course (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888411)

...substantially different from the United States...

...in which bribery is considered standard business practice.

That doesn't sound substantially different at all to me...

Re:par for the course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27889557)

No no no, the term here is "lobbying". We don't use the "B" word, mmkay?

Re:par for the course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27889033)

If you dont bribe an official in one of those countries, you dont get anything done.

And if nobody will bribe them, they don't get anything done either.

Re:par for the course (2, Insightful)

telso (924323) | more than 5 years ago | (#27890229)

Culture substantially different? The US only passed a law banning this in 1977, Canada in 1988, while until 1998 Germany made such bribes tax deductible! It's called schmiergelder [www.cbc.ca] :

Schmiergelder was the official name designated under German tax law permitting middlemen to deduct from their incomes bribes or any other payments to foreigners to secure the sale of German products. These deductions were called necessary business expenses. Schmiergelder is translated literally as "grease money".

The practice of paying schmiergelder was permitted until 1998 when Germany joined other European countries in a pact prohibiting the payment of grease money to foreign public officials. Germany expanded the ban in 2002 to include more than just public officials; it now prohibited paying Schmiergelder to anyone in a foreign country in a decision-making role.

So let's not pretend this is just Third World countries and the Western World is completely ethical.

Re:par for the course (1)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 5 years ago | (#27890653)

"There are quite a few countries who's culture is substantially different from the United States in which bribery is considered standard business practice"

but:

There are quite a few countries who's culture is substantially different from the United States in which bribery illegal, even if you rename it lobbying.

It's How Business is Done (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27887801)

Most countries don't have anti-bribery laws like the U.S.

Since Americans don't usually secede territory without a fight, anti-bribary laws are broken in secret every day.

To quote Syriana, "I've got the foreign corrupt practices act tatooed to the back of my head!"

The only way to make sense to a nigger is to bribe him anyway.

I love this law (4, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887817)

It's a law that is almost never followed by companies that do business overseas. And the reason they cite for doing it? Other companies are not bound by such laws and are free to engage in such practices which gives the other companies a "competitive advantage." It is practically chinese national culture that bribery occurs and is quite expected.

But the other reason I love this law is that charges associated with it often disappear with "healthy contributions" to party and individual campaign funds.

Chinese culture? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27888275)

It's a law that is almost never followed by companies that do business overseas. And the reason they cite for doing it? Other companies are not bound by such laws and are free to engage in such practices which gives the other companies a "competitive advantage." It is practically chinese national culture that bribery occurs and is quite expected.

But the other reason I love this law is that charges associated with it often disappear with "healthy contributions" to party and individual campaign funds.

It should be noted that this incident so far has nothing to do with China, nor is bribery or such practices restricted to China.

The way you put it, it sounds like you are making a broad generalization about Chinese culture supporting bribery and that Chinese culture is the cause of all this.
It is particularly unsettling that you have singled out its "national culture" for bashing.

Re:Chinese culture? (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#27889495)

The chinese example is just an example. Other cultures thrive on corruption and bribery. Mexico is famous for it as well. I think that it is important to note that I show that it is pretty universal regardless of how they paint and re-paint the pictures.

Your post... (1)

raftpeople (844215) | more than 5 years ago | (#27889359)

is interesting, but I have read many other posts in this thread that seem good too.

It's tough to know who to mod up when I can only think about having to pay for my kids braces this year which is going to set me back about $5,000....

I thought for a moment (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887855)

That Sun might have been supplementing the expenses of our poor, underpaid UKian MPs......

It was fucking Iran (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27887861)

Hang them a!!

Oh, wait, Iraq. Nevermind. It's good for biz!!

it's not a bribe if it's in another country... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27887921)

it seems to be standard parctise for multinational companies execs when over seas to bribe the local authorities to get what they want, from paying off a bent police officer in Kenya for safe passage, to stuffing a brown envelope into in irish politician's jacket to give the go ahead for your illgeal gas pipeline. you think the people from outside America lose sleep about paying off and bribing american officials if it is in their intrest? what goes round comes round. and we all pay the price.

Re:it's not a bribe if it's in another country... (1)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888063)

Apparently people overseas are more interested in cash instead of hookers, blow, pot, strippers, rounds of golf, expensive lunches with multiple $300 bottles of wine, sports tickets, customer parties, info sessions at exclusive resorts or 5 star hotel like vendor facilities, and so on and so forth.

Or maybe in addition to the above.

Re:it's not a bribe if it's in another country... (1)

Osrin (599427) | more than 5 years ago | (#27891447)

Actually, under the FCPA being an employee of an American company is enough to subject you to this federal statute. You don't have to be American, or in America.

Oblig. 'Nelson': Hah! Hah! aimed at /. (0, Flamebait)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887965)

This is news?
Stuff that matters?

How and how? Why and Why?

This is just business as usual in Corporate America, and has been for decades.
Glad you finally showed up at the party.
Have a cocktail and a hooker...it's all tax deductible...a business expense!

they have this in the west too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27887987)

except its called "lobbying" where you have entire fully structured million dollar companies employing thousands of people whose sole purpose is to influence laws and social circumstances so that business can get done, at least in other countries they call it what it is aka bribery, the west is constantly inventing new words or re-defining old ones in order to make these nefarious practices as somehow legitimate,
printing money ? quantative easing, bribery ? lobbying, murdering criminals in a war battlefield ? illegal combatants ?, torture ? enhanced interrogation, legalised financial theft ? executive bonuses, pyramid schemes ? hedge funds.
that plank in your eye looks mighty inconvenient

Hey, where's the Microsoft declaration? (1)

davecb (6526) | more than 5 years ago | (#27887991)

They should be listing any bribes they paid for approving OOXML (;-))

P--dave

Of course it is illegal to pay a foreign official (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27887993)

..there are plenty of starving poor US officials who need paying ;)

FAILzORaS!? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27888069)

minut

Funny story about bribery (4, Informative)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888125)

In my home state there are laws against bribery and corruption of course. One of them pertains to gifts. Included in the banned gifts are food. The rule is that you cannot accept food (usually cookies) from anyone unless you eat it in front of them.

Now that last bit sounds odd, doesn't it. Obviously, the rules do allow you to accept a gift of food if you eat in front of them. So, in practice, this means that if you accept cookies for going the extra mile for somebody, you are CORRUPT and UNETHICAL!!! If, on the other hand, you are a politician and getting bought dinner by a lobbyist, you are a force for righteousness.

Apparently.

Re:Funny story about bribery (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27888325)

I would imagine that the rule was written with the idea that politicians could go out and eat dinner or get a cup of coffee and not pick up the tab, and that's fine- as well as the various big get togethers and fundraisers with finger food.

As opposed to, say, receiving a 'food gift' that consists of an entire wine cellar.

Standard operating procedures- someone wrote a law with one specific thing in mind, didn't think of any other way to interpret it, and it gets passed without anyone bothering to read it. Then it's on the books and the lobbyists find more loopholes than if it was written in cursive.

Re:Funny story about bribery (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 5 years ago | (#27892923)

"I would imagine that the rule was written with the idea that politicians could go out and eat dinner or get a cup of coffee and not pick up the tab, and that's fine-"

Is it?

Re:Funny story about bribery (2, Informative)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#27889357)

Maybe change it so the only acceptable food is in the form of one cookie. That way people are free to show their appreciation, but it would be difficult for a lobbyist to do much since there is only so much someone is willing to do for an Oreo.

Re:Funny story about bribery (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 5 years ago | (#27892955)

You'd be suprised [4gifs.com] (NSFW).

Re:Funny story about bribery (1)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 5 years ago | (#27892671)

You just gave me a great idea!!!

1. Become lobbyist.
2. Feed politician diamond-chip cookies
3. Politician passes diamonds, passes your law...
4. Profit!!!

Re:Funny story about bribery (1)

cptnapalm (120276) | more than 5 years ago | (#27893157)

Step 3 is finally solved!

Frontline Covered this Recently (4, Informative)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888277)

For those of you who are interested and have not already seen it, the Foreign Corrupt Practices act and international bribery by large corporations and wealthy individuals was covered in the "Black Money" episode [pbs.org] on Frontline. Obviously the Sun case, coming to light more recently and being much smaller than the frauds discussed in the documentary, is not mentioned, but the Sun case is just another smaller instance of a much larger problem.

What about Microsoft doing it everywhere ?!! (1)

alukin (184606) | more than 5 years ago | (#27888661)

Well, everybody here in Ukraine knows about M$ paybacks reaching 50%. The same in Russia. Affiliated companies do it every time they sell something to state. But M$ is "holly cow" of American economy and "secret weapon" of CIA so it can not be touched.

One law for all?

How Many More Skirted the Law? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27889103)

When you stand to go to jail, some say it is better to seek a plea bargain in exchange for putting those in cahoots with you behind bars. The goal is to get to the finish line first.

This incidence got caught up in the law. How many others are there that skirt the law, just as 'tax avoidance' is a relabeled 'tax evasion'.

Anyone Surprised? (1)

MaximumTruth (1551065) | more than 5 years ago | (#27889157)

Sun pays off foreign officials, Oracle rumages through garbage cans - excellent combination

Re:Anyone Surprised? (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27890781)

Maybe not for long.

Sun's shareholders just sued to block the acquisition:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/05/08/sun_oracle_court_action/ [theregister.co.uk]

Re:Anyone Surprised? (1)

sethmeisterg (603174) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894085)

...just as every single other set of shareholders sue to block acquisitions. No biggie. I'm sure it'll go through.

Re:Anyone Surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27894079)

Hey shithead, speaking as a Sun employee, I can tell you we take corporate ethics EXTREMELY seriously. There are always going to be assholes in your company who ignore the rigorous FCP Act training we all undergo in order to make their quotas. In this case, Sun found out about the potential infraction, AND REPORTED IT OURSELVES. This is not an instance where a third-party discovered corruption then reported Sun. I repeat, we take this shit very seriously, hence the self-reporting. Think about researching the company you're spouting off about before opening your mouth.

Cultural arrogance (1)

hwyhobo (1420503) | more than 5 years ago | (#27889649)

Frankly, I find it just one more proof of cultural arrogance displayed by our politicians to regulate and criminalize what is clearly considered benign and acceptable behavior by many foreign cultures. We are hell bent on exporting democracy (as if it was some kind of magic sword) and our customs to everyone. In the process of saving everyone from himself we become entangled in countless, absurd wars. Why don't we worry about our own problems, within our own shores?

You cannot work in some cultures without "presents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27889693)

The culture in some countries require companies to pay bribes to make anything happen. These are mostly communist countries.

Try to accomplish anything in Russia or China without bribes - either direct "presents" or taking officials into the profit sharing or indirect by hiring their relatives as "consultants" and paying them outrageous salaries.

Another way is to befriend with their police/milicia bosses and use their physical force and intimidation to make sure your business will go smoothly.

Their government bureaucrats are not interesting in improving economy of those countries because the only thing they care is their pocket.

Why can Microsoft do this? But not Sun? (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 5 years ago | (#27891357)

Paid to use Microsoft in South Africa
http://www.education.gov.za/dynamic/dynamic.aspx?pageid=310&id=8553 [education.gov.za]

Also, didn't Microsoft bribe officials to vote for OOXML approval as an ISO standard?

Re:Why can Microsoft do this? But not Sun? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27891421)

"Also, didn't Microsoft bribe officials to vote for OOXML approval as an ISO standard?"

Some of the commentators would have you believe that, if there was any substance to it then several Microsoft employees would probably be facing FCPA charges right now.

Re:Why can Microsoft do this? But not Sun? (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 5 years ago | (#27893721)

>>Some of the commentators would have you believe that, if there was any substance to it then several Microsoft employees would probably be facing FCPA charges right now.http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9033701

Chicago, New York, etc (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 5 years ago | (#27892787)

Big deal- when we would set up demo tables at conventions, if you didn't pay the dock boss, they would take their sweet 'ol time getting around to your spot. On the expense report my boss just put in "Bribes".

Business as Usual...Not (1)

FooGoo (98336) | more than 5 years ago | (#27893169)

As an american owner of a company in south east asia this is normal here. I set aside 50% of my monthly profits to pay the locals. 30% to the police, 10% to the mayor, and another 10% to other random government officials to get things done. They stop by like clockwork every month to collect their "gifts". If I don't pay my business gets shut down or drugs are suddenly found in my house or property and I have to pay a lot more bribing everyone else to keep me out of jail. In some countries bribing or gifts is not about business as usual it's about survival.

In some countries... (1)

milette (744560) | more than 5 years ago | (#27894761)

...this is the ONLY way to do business! Having lived in Russia for the past 12 years, I have some experience with this. "Do you want your license TODAY, or in 3 YEARS?"... The answer is usually pretty simple...
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