Daimler in U.S. court for foreign bribery

The head piece of a Mercedes-Benz.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bill Radke: The German automaker, Daimler -- maker of Mercedes Benz -- has been charged with corruption, and reports out this morning say two of the company's foreign subsidiaries may plead guilty in U.S. court. Officials charge the company has bribed dozens of foreign governments and officials over the past few years. Joining us live from London, our Europe correspondent, Stephen Beard. Hello.

Stephen Beard: Hello, Bill.

Radke: So Stephen, does bribery here mean slipping foreign officials a couple of bucks?

Beard: No, we're talking tens of millions of dollars in bribes in cash or in goods, allegedly given to government officials in more than 22 countries -- China, Russia, Egypt, Iraq and Greece among them. One example: it's alledged that Daimler gave an official in Turkmenistan an armored car as a birthday present so that he'd award a vehicle supply contract to Daimler.

Radke: So Stephen, Daimler is of course German, the bribery charges involve, you mentioned, China, Russia, Egypt, Turkmenistan and others. Why is Daimler being charged in the United States?

Beard: Because it's illegal under U.S. law for companies that operate in the U.S. to offer bribes in other countries. And it has been illegal there for well over 30 years. And yet we've had either allegations or admitted cases of bribery by a string of European companies operating in the U.S. right up until 2008.
Christian Hamburg is head of the anti-corruption group Transparency International in Germany:

Christian Hamburg: It's shocking that all these countries needed so long to learn that foreign corruption is forbidden. This was forbidden in the United States since 1977, when the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act came into power.

Radke: And Stephen, what is Daimler saying this morning?

Beard: They're not making any comment, but several news outlets are reporting that Daimler is preparing to pay a penalty of $185 million to settle the case.

Radke: That's Marketplace's Stephen Beard in London. Thank you.

Beard: OK, Bill.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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