Montero is ready to serve notice to a host of Fortune 500 companies—helpfully name-checked throughout the episode—that at least two hard-nosed investigators are onto them. Not only has the extent of the damage done been vastly underestimated and underreported, but so long as it grows in the dark, it’s able to feed into the worst kinds of crises around the world.
Sheer Intelligence Truthdig January 4, 2019
Journalist David Montero (Sven Stork)
Here’s a pop quiz: How long has corporate corruption existed? Answer: As long as corporations as we know them have been in business. Thanks to journalist David Montero’s meticulously sourced survey, “Kickback: Exposing the Global Corporate Bribery Network,” the consumer public now has access to a wealth of details about the astonishingly shady antics in which multinationals have been engaging since the retro-imperialist heyday of the British East India Company.
And this malignant strain of corporatism is only getting worse. As Robert Scheer remarks to Montero in this week’s episode of “Scheer Intelligence,” it amounts to nothing short of a “virulent, corrosive, murderous arrangement that has only accelerated in recent years.” Some potential reasons why this global scourge hasn’t been more aggressively treated include: greed; willful ignorance; the widely supported myth that the phenomenon is “just” about white-collar crime; a false sense that corporate malfeasance ranges outside of various states’ jurisdictions; and powerful companies engaging in a race to the bottom because, well, everyone else is doing it.
But Montero is ready to serve notice to a host of Fortune 500 companies—helpfully name-checked throughout the episode—that at least two hard-nosed investigators are onto them. Not only has the extent of the damage done been vastly underestimated and underreported, but so long as it grows in the dark, it’s able to feed into the worst kinds of crises around the world. After taking in Montero’s argument, Scheer sums up the stakes powerfully as he remarks that “white-collar crimes are human rights crimes.”
Listen to Montero’s interview with Scheer or read a transcript of their conversation below:
Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case, from David Montero, who’s a highly regarded journalist of considerable experience. And he’s written what I think is kind of a classic book: “Kickback: Exposing the Global Corporate Bribery Network.” And what the book asserts, in great detail with wonderful case studies, is that this is a historic problem of modern capitalism. And it goes back in this book to the British East India Company, the very company that the American Revolution was fought to challenge, with the Boston Tea Party and other things. And traces this virulent, corrosive, murderous arrangement that has only accelerated in recent years. And it begins with the claims about the Russian interference in our election, Russian oligarchs, and so forth, but it really takes in the most prestigious of American companies. And so let me get you to talk about why this book now. Because after having read it, it sort of makes a compelling case that despite our efforts, beginning most prominently with Frank Church, Sen. Frank Church in the 1970s, to do something about this problem, it’s a festering problem that is actually more important now, maybe, than ever.
David Montero: Yeah, and I think the reason it’s more important than ever now is because, one, we’ve laxly enforced a law that we had on the books since 1977—we’ve only laxly enforced it—that law was supposed to prohibit corporations from paying bribes abroad. We now have a president in the White House who’s vocally opposed to this law. His administration has done things to roll back that law. But more importantly, in the person of the president himself, we have someone whose business interests seem to be tainted by this crime itself, and himself. And that, I would say that more than just the efforts that the administration under Trump has made to roll back provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Trump being in the White House and being tainted by this crime itself sends a far more disturbing message, that we need to do something about this crime.
RS: Is it more disturbing, or is it just more obvious that, ah—? It’s sort of the ugly face of a kind of international capitalism, that the people who practice this would rather it not be noticed. And you have Fortune 500 companies like Alcoa, Chevron, Shell, Simmons, Novartis, Bristol-Myers Squibb; you can go down the list, it’s just about every multinational corporation has engaged in this practice of going along with bribes, kickbacks, and everything. And their defense is, it’s the only way you could do business. And they’re accepting the normalcy of corrupting, basically, the international business community. That’s the inescapable conclusion, I think, from your book.
DM: Yeah, and why that’s disturbing is, again, you know, these are cutting-edge companies; these are world-class companies, as you mentioned the names; these are household names. It’s really kind of shocking and disturbing that the only way that a lot of them seem to think they can compete abroad is to pay bribes to government officials. And the reason they think that is why? Because that’s what their competitors are doing. But when you do something that your competitors are doing which is also illegal and inefficient and destructive to the business itself, it’s not very innovative. And that was what was kind of surprising to me: that these companies that make these incredibly innovative products, and they have a history of innovation when it comes to selling them, they’re not innovative at all. They just pay bribes. And they’re not just tainting the international business community; these are bribes that they pay to government officials in some of the poorest, already unstable places on earth. And that money goes on to have a terrible impact, a lasting impact for decades, and is funneled into all kinds of nefarious things. Like conflict, like terrorism. And overall, it deepens poverty in those countries. It’s a crime that right now, the public and the Justice Department tend to think of, and certainly prosecute, as a white-collar business crime. But it’s much broader than that, much more complicated and much more devastating.
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RS: I’m talking to David Montero. He’s the author of “Kickback: Exposing the Global Corporate Bribery Network.” It’s incredibly well documented, and it presents an issue that, you know, is incredibly important but overlooked. And I want to get into the overlooked part of it. You were a correspondent for a publication that I used to read a lot, the Christian Science Monitor; I thought they did a great job. And then of course you were well-known as a producer for PBS’s Frontline series; you’re a highly regarded journalist. Why has this been overlooked? You’ve written for a lot of important publications, the New York Times, The Nation, Le Monde diplomatique, all these others. Why is it under the rug? And then let me ask you, by the way, doesn’t this involve these corporations being more than passive? First of all, they get an advantage if they know how to bribe better than others; if they’ve got their channel, their system set up, they don’t want to ask too many questions. And they also are able to corrupt their home government, in this case the U.S. government, to not aggressively follow the law. Isn’t that really the subtext here?
DM: You were saying just about why it’s been so underreported—just to address that first, I think part of the reason it’s underreported is, again, the public and the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission tend to think of this as a white-collar crime; it’s a business issue. And so a lot of people think, well, if a corporation pays bribes abroad, why should I care? That’s a business thing, that doesn’t affect me.
I started looking at this from the lens of Bangladesh, which is a country where I lived for a year, and I lived there during a time when it was experiencing not only terrible corruption but terrible terrorism, the first suicide bombings, et cetera. I started digging into a particular case that involved Siemens, the German industrial company, and bribes they had paid in Bangladesh. And when I started following the money, actually looking at—well, Siemens paid these bribes, which have been publicly announced by the Justice Department, and not much else. When I started looking into those payments and where they went, I uncovered that they had been given to a minister in the Bangladeshi government who was in turn a patron of a terrorist group.
That sort of was eye-opening to me and made me think, well, it’s not only that these bribes are a business issue; if we follow the money, which has not been done enough, and we uncover where the money goes, we find devastating things. And I think part of the reason it’s not been looked at much is because it’s expensive, and it takes a lot of time to go and follow the money in places like Bangladesh. The corporations certainly don’t want to do that. The Justice Department doesn’t make an effort to really understand; it’s not in their purview, it’s not in their mandate to understand the fallout of these bribes, so they don’t do that. And journalists, again, it’s not something that’s necessarily on their radar, and it’s not something they have the resources to do. So I think that’s why it kind of got swept under the rug.
RS: Well, but you’re kind of giving them a pass. I mean, first of all, the very idea that white-collar crime–you know, I just had some young people who work with, have come out of gangs here in Los Angeles, in my class; they served hard time for their crimes. And their crimes didn’t affect as many people as the corporations you’re talking about, the executives. What is it about this double standard? That you can bribe a whole nation–I mean, after all, for instance, Bangladesh, that’s a factory-floor country now, right? They make a lot of the clothes that we’re wearing, and everything else. People, you know, their working conditions, their living conditions, are a basic human rights concern for the world. And then some companies can go in there and totally corrupt the local government–well, they probably also can keep unions out; they can probably make sure we don’t, the country doesn’t do much for working conditions or the life of the people. So white-collar crimes are human rights crimes, very often.
DM: Oh, absolutely. And this one in particular, yeah.
RS: Well, talk about that a little bit, because I mean, there is a theme running through your book that could let these people off the hook–like, it’s always been thus. You know, going back to the British East India Company. But the fact is, it’s always been exploitive, vicious, and ever more so now.
DM: It’s always been thus, and again, I think the crime has been looked at the wrong way, and as a result, the prosecution has been pretty weak. And that’s what I was trying to argue in the book, that this is a crime that has existed for 400 years, since there were corporations. And the impact, as we saw with the British East India Company in India, has been devastating. But the companies have never been held to account for the devastation; they’ve just been held to account because our laws say that they violated the mandate to keep accurate books and records. In other words, we prosecuted as if it were just a white-collar crime. So that’s what I’m saying, is that it’s not just a white-collar crime; I agree with you, it’s a human rights issue, it’s something that affects poverty and political civility. I think the corporations get away with it because, to go back to something you said before, they often argue that they’re extorted, and they sometimes argue that they’ve been passive participants in these schemes. Which is not true; if you look at the hundreds of cases that the Justice Department has filed in the last 10 years alone, this is active bribery. I mean, some companies have an entire department in their operation that handles these payments. It’s very elaborate, and it’s very active. So this whole idea that they’re sort of being passively extorted, and we couldn’t do business otherwise, and those sorts of arguments, is definitely not valid.
RS: But what is their influence over the U.S. government? I mean, clearly, you know, you have good contact in these government agencies as a reporter; they’ve turned over files to you, people talk to you. The book has a lot of this great detail. But what I took away from it is, yes, Donald Trump may be the most offensive president we’ve had in this regard, because he himself has perfected the art, has been able to function in these countries; so you know, he probably has been at the scene of these crimes more often than most presidents. But clearly, there’s a lack of political will, and bipartisan. I mean, some of these companies—for instance, GE is mentioned in your book. You know, it’s a company where two out of three jobs have gone abroad, and they have all kinds of problems with GE Capital, and their financial, and blah blah blah. But Jeffrey Immelt, the head of GE, was the head of Barack Obama’s jobs council. He was held up as an exemplary businessman. And this is true of a number of the companies. And American foreign policy has actually been the handmaiden of these companies, their ability to function.
DM: Maybe it goes back to this fact: while a corporation cannot pay a bribe abroad—that is illegal under our laws; if you try, even attempt to pay a bribe to a government official abroad, that is illegal—but here in this country, lobbying is not. And so, yeah, the corporations have a huge amount of money to legally lobby; that wouldn’t be called bribing here in the United States. But yeah, they wield an incredible amount of power. And I mean, we have just seen an example of this; after Trump became president, the Republican-led House rolled back a very important—bipartisan, I should mention—effort to inject more transparency into business deals involving oil companies and mining companies under the Cardin-Lugar provision of the Dodd-Frank Act. That was a really important piece of legislation, but that was one of the first things that, thanks to the oil companies which lobbied very hard, the House repealed, and Trump signed into law.
RS: You know, there’s a notion of free market capitalism, and you know, Adam Smith, Ricardo, the great prophets of that. And those notions of the free market, everybody thinks that that somehow was an unequivocal endorsement of capitalism—no. It was a warning that there’s another kind of capitalism—of the cartels, monopoly capitalism, restrictive trade—that would threaten the virtues of a free market. That’s why Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations talked about, you know, the invisible hand; that no one should be able to control the action. But the multinational corporations, and they are dominant now—they want a hand. They want it controlled.
DM: They have an invisible hand through bribes. There isn’t a free market that we think, there isn’t free and fair competition. In fact, it’s all—I don’t want to say it’s all rigged, but it’s greatly rigged through bribes.
RS: In your book, you describe a normalcy of corruption. And then I kept thinking, OK, so what does Apple do in China? What does Lockheed do in their airplane sales? Trump just bragged about the biggest arms deal we have with Saudi Arabia that we’ve ever had. Does this go on in all of these places, and with these very respectable companies?
DM: That’s what history would tell us. Again, we discovered that companies were doing this back in 1977, right after Watergate, because very prestigious companies like Lockheed, and the titans of industry, so to speak, were doing this. So in one sense, we just don’t know; the estimates we have are that about 30 percent of companies globally pay bribes. But that’s based on what they tell us through surveys, and it’s based on the number of cases that are detected; we just don’t know, we’re looking at the tip of the iceberg.
But yes, Rolls Royce, a company that is known for making the best engines in the world, the most cutting-edge engines in the world, and was considered, you know, a paragon of success and corporate leadership for 10 years, between 2006 and 2016—it turns out the way they made their money was not through brilliant corporate leadership, it was through bribes. They hired people around the world, these shady middlemen, which is a common practice, who paid off government officials in Nigeria and Indonesia. And the thing that’s striking about that is, Rolls Royce didn’t need to do that, in one sense; they have good products. It’s not as if their engines are terrible; they have some of the best engines in the world. But they, again, thought, well, we won’t compete with Pratt & Whitney, or other competitors, if we don’t pay these bribes. They either thought that or they decided, we’re not even going to take a chance; we’re just going to pay these bribes and beat the competition. And they know that they can do that because the laws are not really going to hold them to account for it.
RS: And I just want to be clear, in your book, you deny the basic argument, which is that they have to do it, they have no choice. And in your book you indicate there’s another motive: that if they can have a preponderant position in a market, if they have the support of that local government, they can have what they call a desirable business environment. That government will also suppress labor discontent; you see it in even, say, Vietnam, where strikes are broken in order to—here’s a government that, a communist government, and they had a revolution and fought off the United States and everything. Yet you know, you have companies like Nike and everything operating in Vietnam, and the government is a partner in giving them an acquiescent, suppressed workforce. And the key to modern capitalism seems to be to have a cartel or monopoly hold on a market share. And you want to exclude the competition. And that’s what the bribing facilitates, right? It’s just a cost of doing business that ends up being very lucrative.
DM: Absolutely, and in countries like Bangladesh—and I mention Bangladesh because it’s an example I know very well—but in a period between 2001 and 2006 there was a particular government in control, and that government was notoriously corrupt and run by two brothers who were the sons of the prime minister. And I think a lot of corporations really liked having that system, where they knew as long as they keep paying off these guys, they’ll get the contracts they want. That these guys will force contracts through Parliament that the country doesn’t even need—a telecom project, for example, or a power station project. And this is wasting public money, but it’s a turnkey solution. If you have a corrupt politician in power, and you’re a company willing the pay the bribes, then yeah—I mean, this is what would be called state capture, right? You have a system that is just perfectly benefiting your aims and their aims, and it’s the people who are losing out.
RS: I want to return to that point, but let me take a break for a few minutes here. …[omission for station break] We’re back with David Montero, the author of “Kickback: Exposing the Global Corporate Bribery Network.” And we’re just now talking about, what did you say the phrase is? State capture. And I want to get into that a little bit. We’ve just had the renegotiation of the NAFTA agreement, NAFTA 2.0, by Donald Trump. But a couple of the positive features is there’s actually a built-in protection for goods that come in; that workers on 45 percent or something of the product have to make 16 bucks an hour; in some of these places they’re making less than 2 bucks an hour, in Mexico. And also, the idea that maybe local courts—Canadian, Mexican, U.S. courts—might have some jurisdiction, instead of private corporate courts.
But in looking into that, in Mexico for example, one of the things that companies get when they go down to Mexico, is there are these fake unions that people join. They aren’t real unions that could really put pressure on a company to pay more than a couple of bucks an hour. And I’m just wondering whether the bribing has created an overwhelming norm, and that’s why we have Apple computers in front of every student in a college classroom, that’s why all the clothes we wear are made in Bangladesh or Vietnam or China. Because those governments are being bribed, one way or another, to deliver an acquiescent workforce. And that is the business model, it’s not the exception.
DM: I can’t speak to that directly; I didn’t look at a case that involved how bribes affected labor specifically. But I can see your point with, again, a government in a place like Bangladesh being very much open to the idea of, if you bribe us we’ll give you the contracts you want. In the case of these two brothers I mentioned, they certainly, some of their concerns that they owned were factories; no one’s been able to trace back whether or not factories they owned were mistreating their workers or anything like that. But the point is that, yeah, I see what you’re saying; that there’s a sense that these governments would be willing to flout other laws. If they’re willing to take bribes and pass contracts that their country doesn’t even need, yeah, it’s possible.
RS: Yeah, I mean, the reason I’m pushing this—and it is a big issue in your book, because you’re really arguing this is not a victimless crime. It’s often presented as a victimless crime; that’s how you do business, you grease the palm, goods get made, everybody’s happy. But in your book, you keep reminding us that there are victims, and one victim is the American worker. This lowers wages, it has an effect on our quality of life. And that’s why I’m bringing it up. I mean, these are concessions obtained in considerable measure through bribery of powerful people in the governments that are the factory floor, or what have you, for these goods. And the consequence is negative, considerably negative, for the average person in the home country, the United States in this case.
DM: Well, yeah. And it’s incredibly negative, I think even more importantly, for the average citizen in the country where the bribes are paid. Because that’s where the fallout really takes place. But certainly, yeah, this is a system through which the corporations benefit; the handful of officials who receive the bribes benefit; but on either side of the equation, in the United States and in the country where the bribes are paid, ordinary people lose out. That may include that, right, a company pays a bribe for a contract, and as a result, an American company loses that contract; and that has happened many, many times, and as a result Americans lose jobs, or as you said, wages go down. And in the countries where these bribes are paid, again, if you follow the money, you find that the impact of these bribes is very devastating, so devastating, and devastating for a very, very long time. These are crimes with an impact that takes sometimes a decade to unfold. And again, it increases poverty, it increases conflict. And that’s part of the problem that I really didn’t see being told. And I think that’s why the laws against the crime are not really that enforced.
RS: Yeah. The book is called “Kickback: Exposing the Global Corporate Bribery Network.” And that is not, from reading this book, to me, an overstatement. And if it’s a network, then, you know, the consequences are pervasive not just in the country—and here maybe I’m taking issue with your emphasis—where the bribes are being extended, but in the home country. For example, we have a big argument—I’m doing this broadcast from Los Angeles; the county and the city of L.A. just did pass resolutions guaranteeing a somewhat higher minimum wage that will rise in the next few years. That doesn’t mean a whole lot if most of the goods that we’re using are producing countries that have an incredibly low minimum wage. And if that low minimum wage is maintained elsewhere because of the bribery and corruption of those governments, whether it’s Mexico or China or anywhere else, that means you’re not going to do a whole lot through your own political activity, your own voting, your own activity within the home country to improve conditions, because these terms are set elsewhere, and they’re set in a sea of corruption in this global corporate bribery network. So I think the book has an ominous message, really, beyond what we’ve discussed so far.
DM: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s disturbing that this is, for a lot of companies, it is and has been for a long time, standard operating procedure. This is such an elaborate system, the way it works; it’s not that a company goes to a foreign minister and hands him $10,000 under the table. The way bribery works in the modern era is far more complicated than that, and requires a network of people, both within the organization and then who are hired outside of the organization, to pass on these bribes. It takes an incredible amount of effort to launder the money once the officials receive it. So it really is a network, and it’s an operation that’s much more sophisticated and ominous than we think when we think of someone just passing money under the table.
RS: The power of this book is you offer case studies that cannot be ignored. And it means that within a large company, there are whole divisions devoted to this kind of bribery. And people are in on it–accountants, executives, and so forth. This is a major part of doing business. And so I want to go from there, and we only have a few minutes left. I’d like to get into the role of our own government. Because you are really quite flattering in this book about individual civil servants within our own government who are supposed to be monitoring this. And they’re well-intentioned, they get the data, they try to bring the cases. But most often, it doesn’t go very far. And the fines are not very large given the profits involved; it’s more of a slap on the wrist. And I want you to just take the trajectory in this book from the mid-1970s, when thanks to Senator Frank Church and others, and good media reporting for once, whistleblowing, we actually were conscious of this corruption. And how much progress have we really made since the mid-1970s in controlling this global corporate bribery network? Is it worse now, is it better?
DM: Yeah, as you mentioned, after Watergate in the 1970s it was the most poignant reckoning as a country we had with how this—this system exists, and how it exists. Congress held hearings for three or four years in which they really delved into the issue, and that resulted in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, this law. So there was a time in the late ’70s, early ’80s, when there was a great amount of momentum behind stopping this crime; we understood why it was so bad, it involved our best companies, it was wreaking havoc abroad. But then a number of things happened, and we kind of lost sight of the law. The first was that the FCC and the Justice Department could not really decide, well, who’s in charge of enforcing this law? And by the way, it’s a law that doesn’t just deal with market violations; it’s a very complex law touching on national policy, foreign policy, et cetera. They didn’t have the expertise to do it. Nonetheless, it was decided they would jointly enforce this law, neither of them having really the adequate expertise to do so.
Communism collapsed, and that was one of the main motivations for why we had this law; we were worried that the bribery abroad, that our corporations were involved in, was helping communists; it was giving them ammunition to say, look at these corrupt corporations funding these capitalist parties, and et cetera. Communism collapsed, and then by the 1990s, really this law became about protecting American competitiveness. The whole argument of “we need to protect citizens abroad” sort of died out; it became, the CIA of all things uncovered that foreign corporations were costing American companies billions of dollars in contracts because they were stealing them through bribery. And the CIA became very active in cracking down on this by handing over intercepts and other things. So by the early 2000s, we had literally one guy at the Justice Department enforcing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and not surprisingly, he was an incredible—I mentioned in the book, Peter Clark, he was an incredible force in that sense. But there’s only so much one man can do.
By the mid-2000s, enforcement of the FCPA was entirely lacking. And so there has been an upsurge in the last 10 years, as the result of a couple of different factors including more international cooperation and more political will. But the fines that the companies are forced to pay, for one thing, they’re so low. According to one study, they are equivalent to about one percent of a company’s market cap. That’s not much to be punitive. The Justice Department has many prosecutors working on this crime, but they’re incredibly complex, and they often don’t have the resources to really delve into them. What they would rather see is, bring enough evidence to get a corporation to settle, and pay a moderate fine, and that sends the message of deterrence. But clearly, it doesn’t.
RS: Well, I mean, people should ponder what you just said. We have lots of people in our prison system; we have the largest incarcerated population in absolute terms in the world. And our society is vigilant in going after someone who’s committed a petty crime, even, the third time, and try to put them away forever. And yet we get this slap on the wrist. And the idea that you have one person—one person!—in this huge bureaucracy devoted to controlling this, it tells the story. And it tells it, I think—I’m all for Trump-bashing and everything, but the fact of the matter is, he didn’t invent this problem. He may personify the problem, but we’re talking about, you know, the Clinton administration, the Obama administration, the two Bush administrations, going back to the Nixon administration. And so there’s a general intent, or lack of will, to hold these large corporations accountable. I don’t know, I don’t want to misstate the book, and people should read the book, draw their own conclusions. But the conclusion that I came away [with] from reading “Kickback: Exposing the Global Corporate Bribery Network,” I felt I needed to take a shower.
RS: I felt I had just been dipped in a cesspool. And these are people who have been to the Harvard Business School, and you know, they’re top lawyers, they’re business people, they talk a good game, they wear the finest suits, talk about integrity. And they live in a cesspool of corruption. I mean, you mentioned Siemens; it’s a German company of great, high regard, right? And these companies, they’re the blue-chip companies, and the norm of their operation throughout the world is to set an example of deep, deep corruption. Am I putting too fine a point on this? I don’t want to distort the book.
DM: No, not at all. I just want to point out, though, at the moment the Justice Department certainly has more than one person enforcing this. They have, I think, 24 prosecutors. But, right, for a long time it was only one person. But no, I think you’re absolutely not overstating this. I think that it’s standard operating procedure at many corporations; it’s very active, it’s very organized, this bribery. And it has a devastating impact. And it’s done by corporations that have already paid fines to the Justice Department, and in return for not being prosecuted through a settlement, they have said to the Justice Department, we are really sorry, we promise we’re going to reform, here’s the money for our fine. And they move on, and then a couple years later, guess what we find out—oh, they did it again. And they again reach a settlement where the Justice Department says, we won’t prosecute you, you guys promise to reform, we’ll take the fine. And it seems like on the one hand, their reforms are window dressing, and the Justice Department’s fines are kind of a slap on the wrist, and it’s not really making an impact for the corporations or for the people abroad who suffer for this.
RS: Your book describes these incredibly prosperous business executives, corporate lawyers, and so forth, who are quite comfortable in a system where they know when they violate the laws and bring misery to large numbers of people around the world, and corrupt the other political systems—they’re the worst role models for American democracy in the world; it’s a role model of corruption—that they’re not going to be hurt by this. Their company is not going to be hurt. They’re going to get the slap on the wrist. I just wonder, what will the people who read the New York Times, or the L.A. Times, Washington Post, who are in these corporate boardrooms—and presumably you’ll get some good reviews, hopefully—but what will they think when they read this book? Will they feel a sense of shame? Will they want to reform the system? Will they think it’s only Trump? If it’s only Trump, then how do you explain going back 400 years? You know, what do you think the reaction will be?
DM: Yeah, I think the reaction should be a wake-up call. I think some executives that I spoke to, including some who’d gone to jail for bribery in the past, they claimed–I think I believe them–they weren’t aware that bribes had such a devastating impact. And I think that’s part of the problem. People pay these bribes and they think it goes into a vacuum, and that allows them to get away with it legally, but also on their conscience. So I’m hoping that people who read this book, if they work in a corporation, it will be a needed wake-up call for them to say, wow, this is really devastating stuff; this money doesn’t just go into a black hole. It funds some really, really terrible things. And that, yes, I think hopefully the book will set a precedent that they can’t just get away with this by saying, well, we didn’t know the bribes were going to do that; we didn’t know they had that effect. And I hope that it may result in maybe more meaningful fines, if people understand the impact that this bribery has; it’s not just a white-collar crime.
RS: Great. That’s it for this edition of Scheer Intelligence. I’ve been talking to David Montero. The book is called “Kickback: Exposing the Global Corporate Bribery Network.” And if you’re one of those folks who thinks you don’t want to read about economics, then you don’t really want to read about people, you don’t want to read about the world condition. This book—and it’s vivid, and it’s telling of case stories, it’s a page-turner, and I highly recommend it. And that’s it for this week’s edition of Scheer Intelligence. Kat Yore and Mario Diaz are our brilliant engineers here at KCRW. Joshua Scheer and Isabel Carreon are our producers. And we were ably assisted this week by the public radio affiliate in Pittsburgh, WESA. That’s it for this week’s Scheer Intelligence. We’ll see you next week.