It astonishes me how many cases there are of wealthy individuals simply buying their way out of trouble. Let’s face it, in the world we live in today, money still talks, even in courts of law.
Maybe this mentality was instilled in us when we were young – if my parents wanted me to do something that I didn’t want to do, like take medicine or clean my room, they’d bribe me with money, candy, or a late bedtime. I know this may not be the best example, since I certainly didn’t get $100 million just to make my bed, but it makes you wonder if that mindset, using money to buy someone’s behavior or buy someone’s actions is taught to us early on. Maybe my parents needed some anti bribery training themselves!
Billionaire Buys His Way Out
If you’re anything like me, you’ve fantasized about the billionaire lifestyle – expensive cars, a private jet, and a get-out-of-jail-free-card that doesn’t expire. Wait – was that last part just me? I doubt it, since many of the rich global elite think they can simply buy their way out of trouble – and many do. What does that teach the rest of us?
Perhaps you’ve seen the news that Formula One billionaire Bernie Ecclestone recently paid a $100 million dollar settlement. Formula One is the highest class of single-seat auto racing and consists of what is known as the F1 Series and the Formula One World Championship. Ecclestone paid a $44 million bribe to the German banker who approved a $1.4 billion sale of the Formula One rights to CVC in 2005. Ecclestone was found guilty of bribery and sentenced to 10 years in jail. However, he will not serve any of that time. The German court simply set him free after he paid a $100 million dollar settlement. Many see this as him bribing the court to let him go. Germany’s Justice Minister was even quoted as saying, “the financial penalty had sent a message that the wealthy can buy their freedom in criminal cases.”
Celebrities Do it Too
So let me get this straight, the CEO of a huge multi-billion dollar industry commits a serious crime, in the amount of billions of dollars, and he simply buys his way out of punishment? On trial for bribery, and he bribes the court to let him go…amazing. Oh the irony. It just blows my mind
Incidents like this make it look like wealthy people are above the reach of the law. It’s not ethical or moral, yet it happens. People that have money get a green light to do whatever they want. I Celebrities are great examples of individuals who can either buy their way out of trouble, or use their infamy to their advantage.
Look at Lindsay Lohan and all of her drug related incidents. She only went to jail for six days instead of the original 30 she was sentenced. Of course her discharge was due to “overcrowding” (I guess they can’t put “famous” as a reason. ) She violates her probation, drinks and drives, endangers the lives of innocent people, yet her punishments are trivial compared to ordinary people who commit the same crimes. It would seem like there were two criminal justice systems – one for people with wealth, fame, or influence who can afford certain privileges due to their celebrity status or size of their bank accounts. And then there is the other justice system…for the rest of us.
Not a care in the world, right Linds?
Is our legal system unjust? Can it be bought, if the right price is offered? What our legal system needs is anti bribery training and a serious wake up call.
Anti Bribery Training in the Corporate World
In the scenarios above, it seems obvious to the casual observer that both Lohan and Ecclestone should be getting acquainted with the inside of a jail cell rather than a lavish party or private jet. So why does that observer need anti bribery training if they’re capable of identifying unethical scenarios so easily?
In the business world, situations aren’t always so black and white. For example, let’s say you’re traveling to a foreign country and meeting a prospective business partner’s executives. One of them offers you a small gift as a welcome to the country, or perhaps takes you out for a meal. It would be rude and against the customs of the country to refuse, yet either of these seemingly innocent gestures could be seen as a bribe in certain circumstances.
Your employees need targeted anti bribery training that helps decipher difficult situations similar to those that they may encounter in the field. They also need a primer on how to report potential bribes in case they witness a colleague or executive violating the guidelines they learned in their training. Most companies have a whistleblower hotline or anonymous third-party web form that allows employees to report such incidents for investigation.
It’s critical your anti bribery training, just like any of your ethics and compliance training programs, reaches all of your employees, from the most senior executives (like an Ecclestone) to the most junior staff members (I hope none of them are even remotely similar to Lindsay Lohan.) The training should clearly define the repercussions of being involved in a bribery scheme – whether giving, receiving, or simply witnessing without reporting.