10 August 2012

Siemens AG has been involved in some of the largest breaches of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This week the Securities and Exchange Commission is trying to effect summonses on senior Siemens managers who have refused to submit to US jurisdiction, relating to bribes of more than $100 million to Argentinian officials to secure government contracts.

Three years ago Siemens reached a $1.6 billion deal with US and German authorities to settle another bribery case, also involving Argentina.

But yesterday, Siemans joined other major German companies in lobbying for tighter laws on public sector bribery.  Ironically, Siemans, as much as others in the business sector apparently want Germany to become part of the UN Convention against Corruption.  

Germany – together with Japan and New Zealand – is among the small number of countries not party to UNCAC. Germany has to tighten statutory controls on the conflicts of parliamentarians, to meet convention obligations. New Zealand’s outstanding constraints include issues relating to the soliciting bribes .

Currently, a German MP can accept payments in return for voting in party meetings although paying for parliamentary votes does constitute criminal bribery. Because there are numerous examples of bribery in German politics, Transparency International ( which is based in Berlin) is supporting the call from business for law change.

“German parliamentarians are not only harming Germany’s reputation, the reputation of the parliament, but also the German export industry,” the group said in a news release. “Germany’s failure to ratify this convention makes life harder for German companies abroad.”

Transparency International NZ is also concerned about the lack of progress over the last ten years in making New Zealand law compatible with UNCAC. TINZ claims that “for the sake of our international reputation – and our economy – it’s now past time for ratification to be made a political priority, as well as a priority for New Zealand business…Transparency International’s own research shows that the majority of NZX50 companies do not have policies in place that prohibit bribery by staff. This shows that it is both government and business that is lagging far behind most other OECD countries…”