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The corruption eruption

Habit to having an affair no sooner have you given in

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habit to having an affair: no sooner have you given in to temptation than you are trapped in a world of secrecy and guilt. On the other hand, the benefits of rectitude can be striking. Texaco, an oil giant now subsumed by Chevron, had such an incorruptible reputation that African border guards were said to wave its jeeps through without engaging in the ritual shakedown. Moreover, the likelihood of being caught is dramatically higher than it was a few years ago. The internet has handed much more power to whistle-blowers. NGOs keep a constant watch on big firms. Every year Transparency International publishes its Corruption Perceptions Index, its Bribe Payers Index and its Global Corruption Barometer. The likelihood of prosecution is also growing. The Obama administration has revamped a piece of post-Watergate legislation—the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)—and is using it to pursue corporate malefactors the world over. The Department of Justice is pursuing far more cases than it ever has before: 150 today compared with just eight in 2001. And it is subjecting miscreants to much rougher treatment. Recent legislation has made senior managers personally liable for corruption on their watch. They risk a spell in prison as well as huge fines. The vagueness of the legislation means that the authorities may prosecute for lavish entertainment as well as more blatant bribes. America is no longer a lone ranger. Thirty-eight countries have now signed up to the OECD’s 1997 anti-corruption convention, leading to a spate of cross-border prosecutions. In February
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