Some of my fellow beings in the USA might feel that some of their mighty corporations are nothing but members of a giant (Dis-?) Organized Crime syndicate, there with the sole purpose of creating wealth for the higher CEOs and funding for the Reps and Dems, but that nevertheless the system works. The thought that their Enron, Worldcom, Tyco, Global Crossing, Qwest and others too many to mention, are the few rotten apples on the world wide tree of business, where the rest of the fruit is clean, fresh and edible, might be tempting, but it is unfortunately self deceptive and not true. It is a big mess, really! But I can assure you that you are not alone. The fruit from the capitalist tree is not fit for consumtion by even pigs, whether it is plucked in Europe, Asia or Africa. The creativity of accounting departments has finally left other corporate creativity far behind.
Today some late info on Swedish communications giant Ericsson arrived. Please sit down now!! Two years ago the CEOs’ bonus were based on the results. Then Ericsson lost more than $3 Bn. Quickly restructuring the bonus to be based on cash-flow (and then hurriedly selling off subsidiaries, factories and everything that wasn’t bolted down) the CEOs still managed to recieve a juicy bit of cash. Now there’s not much left to sell and the CEOs risk losing their bonus. After two years of massive losses, when the shares have lost 95 % of their value, and 20 % of the work force has been kicked into insecurity, Ericsson now again restructures its bonus system to allow its CEOs to cash in. After a first half year 2002 of catastrophy, bonuses will be based on a combination of incoming orders and customers’ payment capacity, those obviously on the way up. We can expect it to be a sad day indeed for all Swedes the next time their formely proud, old and honest Ericsson changes its bonus system, as the logical next step is for it to be based on losses.
It may be perfectly legal but it belongs in a barred sandbox!
Last years Germany and others have had their fair share of corporate scandals. Multinational Monitor rated chemical multi Bayer AG among the Top Ten Worst Companies of the year in 2001. And though they might not have cooked their books, BASF and Hoffman-La Roche’s crimes has lead to them being fined more than $ 700 mil recently. The pattern of blowing up earnings seems to be less common in Europe. Either the CEOs’ bonuses are constructed in a way not encouraging such behaviour or there are better checks on the companies. Noone should think that other forms of corporate crime is unusual, however. Illegal donations to politicians is widespread and greed is widely found, perhaps illustrated by the boards thinking of “if it’s for sale, buy it” until liquidity problems makes them go bust. The employees go to live on welfare while the CEOs find new lucrative employment.
France has had its own scandals and though president Chirac hasn’t been indicted most people expect his bank-accounts to be well stuffed with illgotten “presents”. Recently the giant French multinatinal media conglomerate Vivendi International managed to kick out its boss Jean-Marie Messier (what an appropriate name!) before he destroyed the company completely, after dealings far over his head causing a $12 Bn loss in 2001 and dropping the shares to a 14 year low. And book-cooking hasn’t even come to light. Yet! A documentary on BBC recently revealed how a deal involving frigates for the Taiwanese navy had been bribed into reality (causing a murder in its wake) by unscrupulous middlemen and high level French officials. The Elf-Aquitane purchase of the east German Leuna refinery, after almost 20 years still keeps attorneys, prosecutors and press corps busy in both Germany and France and former German Bundeskanzler Helmut Kohl still refuses to reveal where a lot of his and right-wing CDU’s funding has come from. The ex-chancellor is, to noone’s surprise not behind bars (but seems to be frequently by them).
Weapons deals internationally, almost without exceptions, have shown that noone really sells deadly hardware without paying 5-10% in commission (read: $$$BRIBES$$$) to middlemen, often of dubious reputation. The Swedish howitzer deal with India in the 80s enrichened friends of Rajiv Gandhi (and ruined Bofors’ reputation). Jetsetter mr Khashoggy can thank US killer machine producers Northtrop, Lockheed, Boeing, Grumman and others for his fabulous riches and a mr Mark Thatcher (you guessed it! son of British ex-PM) has cashed in mightily on the arms trade. French and British companies have a long and dirty tradition since the days of “merchant of death” sir Basil Zaharoff.
Italy has always been famous in Europe for its very liberal look on sleaze, bribes and dubious financial deals making some people rich beyond understanding. With mr Silvio Berlusconi, himself accused of close ties with the mafia, as prime ministerial example noone should expect Italy to be any “cleaner” these days. The G8 summit in Genoa not long ago clearly demonstrated the willingness by the government to defend the present corporate system if it had to walk over dead bodies.
The Britons seem to have a tendency for hushing up a lot of their crimes. Perhaps too many of the chairmen has “been at Oxford or Eton together” with influental media owners. Or they prefer to concentrate on celebreties’ weird sexual habits. Still, BBC has reported enough dirty deals to last a long time.
The Dutch and Belgian speciality appears to be production and selling of livestock futter with added illegal substances or converting stuff that ought to have been destroyed to saleable food, for humans or animals. To gather a very angry gang of German farmers, ready to march to torch the factories that sold them the futter that caused their meat products to be banned, should be a simple task.
All the shady deals in Asia, very often by multinationals, would require an army of investigators to compile, and make this article much too long. But rest assured that they are by no means unknown. Maybe the Japanese habit by offenders, of crying and humbling themselves in front of the TV cameras, keep down the worst excesses. And if I had a diamond for every shady, criminal and murderous deal done in Africa, I’d be a very rich man indeed. The European and American companies robbing the continent of gold, minerals and oil don’t even rely on advice from Anderson Consulting. They rely on mercenaries, antipersonnel mines and greedy warlords.
And, Dear Americans, if you think that your politicians are overpaid, greedy or crooked, the European Union is no shining example and Netherland’s latest feat unapproachable: The newly appointed Minister for Family and Equality Affairs, Philomena Bijlhout, had to step down immediately the other day, after it was found out she had earlier worked with Surinam’s murderous militia in ’82-83. (hey, isn’t there a hint for Negroponte and Reich somewhere?) Her 6 hours in office will reward her with 150.000 Euro (Euro~US$) plus some extra bonus.
People are fundamentally not so different whether living in Ougadougoo, Trondheim or Seattle. It’s the system that corrupts and destroys.
Capitalism thrives on greed and greed corrupts just like power! We wouldn’t dream of letting trains or lorrys run amok. Why do we allow Big Biz?
But you are not alone in America! They have taken over here too!
Jerre Skog is a Swedish writer, musician and alternative observer living in Germany since 1999. More articles, political and satirical can be found on: Jerre´s Thinktank www.skog.de Comments are welcome at: firstname.lastname@example.org