business news in context, analysis with attitude

Not surprisingly, we continue to get lots of email about the Walmart bribery allegations...

MNB user Mark Raddant wrote:

This is still more evidence to support a different legal status of citizenship for corporations.  Corporations, especially when functioning in groups, can mass far greater resources to effect legislation and elections, but can not be held personally accountable; corporations cannot go to jail.  Corporate “speech” needs to be limited to reflect their degree of accountability; since they cannot go to jail—which is for most citizens more severe than a monetary judgement—they should not have the same unlimited freedoms of a citizen.


From another reader:

Walmart never should have bribed lower level government officials. That's morally and ethically wrong.  Instead, Walmart should have spent that money making campaign contributions to to top level Mexican government officials in order to obtain rapid approvals for local actions.  Political contributions clearly aren't covered under the FCPA and in this way, the US (at Secretary of State Clinton suggests) can model the behavior that demonstrates a race to the top instead of a race to the bottom.

If you want to be accurate, I’m not sure there is an enormous difference between political contributions and bribery, at least not the way the system works in the US.

Another MNB user wrote:

Sure does make one wonder why Wal-Mart’s fiercest competitors, including Costco and H-E-Butt have experienced far less store count growth in Mexico over the last few years. Each company has less than 40 locations in Mexico. Wal-Mart has more than 2000.

Still another reader chimed in:

I’m just returning from South Africa, where the topic of “Wal-Mart activities in Mexico” is being watched pretty closely. There is increasing concern that some of Wal-Mart’s tactics will be used there, particularly as Shoprite, Pick n Pay, Spar and Massmart compete for store sites. For any number of reasons, I doubt this will happen – but there is no doubt that Wal-Mart will have more scrutiny than before since they have been viewed as honorable in the way they apply the gratuity policy and other (COBC) Code of Business Conduct principles.

As one who’s been involved on many levels to “sell more” with / through Wal-Mart since 1987, I can’t help but wonder how many Wal-Mart associates – and vendors – have grave concerns about the uneven enforcement of COBC & gratuity policy violations. One has to wonder if some lawsuits against Wal-Mart won’t be brought by former employees (who were terminated because of violating this supposed global policy).

This sage confirms an old truism: “What gets measured, gets done”.

From another reader:

We’re exposed to it daily with stories of insider trading, corruption of elected officials and other more sinister activities inside US business.

In my opinion that is why our US Government needs to play cop and regulate business and commerce inside our borders and try to influence business practices with our trading partners.

Each citizen in our country is entitled to conduct commerce w/o fear of being ripped off…and if they are ripped off to have legal recourse to recover the losses. I know regulation is a dirty word in the pro business world but it is necessary and that is proven every day with a new news headline of corruption in our country.

Another MNB user offered:

Describing Mexico and much of the world as the “wild west” is probably very accurate.

Following that up with the question about how much cheating, stealing and corruption occurs in the US is a great question to ponder and a nice equalizer.

And, still another email:

Your article Wed relating to the Walmart bribery situation brings up another very important action in of today's political environment - that of companies' lobbying efforts whereby companies, with their vast finances, numbers and time, are now running (or attempting to run) our government. We the people no longer have a voice because big corporations' voices are "heard" much more loudly than the general public. What is good for these companies is not always best for this country. But they continue to push their weight around and unfortunately, politicians (George Bush as a good example) too often do what's best for the companies because it's in the politicians' best interests also. I commend Hillary Clinton for taking the stand she has taken to not water down FPCA regulations in the interest of a company who puts greed at the top of it's agenda.

Unfortunately, WalMart isn't the only company today who lobbies government to put their best interests ahead of America's and until this practice is stopped, the United States isn't going to move forward. While corporations and their taxes are very important to this country, too much of their lobbying is based around how they can eliminate paying taxes and doing what's needed to contribute to a healthy economy - and that I find is scary!

And I love this email:

Can you tell me the difference between bribery and trade dollars?

Excellent point.

Responding to yesterday’s “Who do you trust” commentary, MNB user Mark Dixon wrote:

I really enjoyed your article this morning, very insightful. I think you captured what most people feel today, that we really want to trust our business partners, the government, etc, but they continue to give us cause to not trust. Great food for thought.

Hopefully they really do want to do the right thing and with that action, they can regain our trust, one positive experience at a time.

From another reader:

While I would agree today’s younger generations will have less trust in others than prior generations, I do challenge your apparent premise that it is an institutional problem—i.e. government/religion/business/etc.    In many ways, I believe those institutions to be more trustworthy, relatively speaking, than in prior centuries.  Reading any history re any of these institutions will bring forth countless scandals and episodes that are, frankly, mind blowing.  I think the only difference between now and then is that we hear about it all w/surround sound news media and that we hear about it in real time (or close).

What I do find trending downward re trust, though, is in personal circumstances, and, in my opinion, this is much more sad and terrifying.  What I remember most about all of my grandparents was the very basic goodness in them.  None of them would have ever even considered cheating someone else or lying to one’s own advantage.  They worked hard and were thankful for what they had.  They could revel in simple pleasures.

My grandfather, to this day, is my role model.  He was the oldest of 4 boys who lost their dad when just children.  Their mother could not afford to keep them so placed them w/uncles, all of whom were farmers.  So, my grandfather basically had no childhood; that time was spent working hard on the farm to justify his keep.  He graduated as valedictorian from a high school class of 10 and then borrowed $700 from the uncle who had raised him and used that money to matriculate to Bucknell University, where he graduated 4 years later w/a degree in electrical engineering. As soon as he got a job, he paid the uncle back.  He was one of the most modest people I ever knew.  Impossible to buy for because he didn’t want/need anything.  When he died, his drawers were full of shirts that had been presents but never worn.

My point is that, growing up, my world was full of people who, very simply, had my back, and it was very comforting to know that.  And these were good people that had my back.  It may simply be a perspective that is distorted now that I am that generation, but I just don’t get the same vibes.  It may be that life is just becoming too complicated; needs (or wants) are too great; people are pulled in too many directions.  I don’t have any answers.  I just feel that institutions will always be tainted by those for whom the power corrupts, but, as long as those around you can be trusted, life will be okay.  It’s when you begin to question those around you that you lose traction.  If you have ever read “Lord of the Flies”, that is the expression of what I think younger generations may fear in today’s culture.  And that should be terrifying.

One MNB user was very kind in writing:

I’ve come to the conclusion you are the only one we can trust!

While another wrote:

Well written article, which points to the only One we can ultimately trust in yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever and that is The Creator of the universe and every living thing that has breath, and that is in God alone.

It is rare that my name and God’s would be mentioned by two people writing in about the same commentary. My name and God’s sometimes get mentioned in the same sentence, but there is usually a “damn” in there somewhere...
KC's View: