Ikea has gone to great lengths to fight corruption in

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without getting their hands dirty, including Reebok, Google and Novo Nordisk. IKEA has gone to great lengths to fight corruption in Russia, including threatening to halt its expansion in the country, firing managers who pay bribes and buying generators to get around grasping officials holding up grid connections. What is more, Mr Nichols argues, it is misguided to dismiss entire countries as corrupt. Even the greasiest-palmed places are in fact ambivalent about corruption: they invariably have laws against it and frequently produce politicians who campaign against it. Multinationals should help bolster the rules of the game rather than pandering to the most unscrupulous players. And is “grease” really all that efficient? In a paper published by the World Bank, Daniel Kaufmann and Shang-Jin Wei subjected the “efficient grease” hypothesis to careful scrutiny. They found that companies that pay bribes actually end up spending more time negotiating with bureaucrats. The prospect of a pay-off gives officials an incentive to haggle over regulations. The paper also found that borrowing is more expensive for corrupt companies, probably because of the regulatory flux. The hidden costs of corruption are almost always much higher than companies imagine. Corruption inevitably begets ever more corruption: bribe-takers keep returning to the trough and bribe-givers open themselves up to blackmail. Corruption also exacts a high psychological cost on those who engage in it. Mr Nichols says that corrupt business people habitually compare their
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