The world of bribery, at your fingertips

The oil and gas industry is hardly alone in having a history of violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, but it’s well represented in a new online database of bribery investigations and actions.
Compiled by TRACE International (Transparent Agents and Contracting Entities) a non-profit that helps companies avoid running afoul of the laws, the free online system tracks bribing enforcement actions, as well as summaries of cases and ongoing investigations by authorities outside of the U.S
This isn’t just the big Iraqi Oil For Food kind of stuff, but the smaller issues too involving gifts, hospitality and small facilitating payments.
Whether its ABB Vetco Gray’s past problems in Angola, Nigeria and Kazakhstan or Katy Oil Co.’s problems in Indonesia waaay back in the 1970s, it’s here.
Alexandra Wrage, president of TRACE, said the database could be “a great resource for lawyers, executives, academics, civil society and the media. We are committed to updating the Compendium in ‘real time’ and invite the international community to advise us of anti-bribery developments in their countries.”
TRACE did a survey recently on “facilitating payments,” those smaller payoffs given to “grease the skids” for getting paperwork completed at different levels of a government bureaucracy, for example. You could call it the gateway drug for large-scale bribery.
Such payments are actually permitted under United States, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and South Korean laws “to encourage government officials in other nations to perform or expedite routine tasks that are a part of their usual responsibilities, such as connecting phones, delivering mail, completing inspections, and processing shipments through customs.,” TRACE notes.
But in the survey TRACE found more than 45 percent of the companies that responded said that if such payments were prohibited everywhere, their jobs would be easier. Another 48 percent said such a prohibition would not affect their jobs at all. This suggests the payments aren’t always the “necessary evil” everyone assumes them to be.