- German companies are now working a bit more honestly after a few sensational affairs.
- The actions of Trump, however, ensure that the ideas of morality and business come to shaky.
- But it is true: Rules can not be prescribed, it must be demonstrated by the bosses.
The German economy is doing well, at least. Optimism does not give way, though stock prices have long been on a pessimistic downward path. German companies also seem to be on the path of virtue. The former construction group Bilfinger has just been released from the supervision of the American judicial authorities following a corruption affair in Nigeria. The Siemens Group, which plunged into the most spectacular corruption affair of German economic history in 2006, is once again regarded as a flagship company in the general perception. Even VW, which brought one of the most important industries into disrepute by manipulating emission values in diesel engines, now promises to return to a clean business.
Alright in Germany?
Probably not. After two years in office, there is a growing danger that US President Donald Trump will not only damage the global economy, but that this man's amorality in politics and business decisions will also bring down the moral fabric on company floors worldwide. Compliance, that is the ethical and rule-conforming behavior in companies, is shaken under Trump.
The Siemens scandal has created an awareness of this topic in Germany. He made it clear that a German company, which wants to gain advantages in foreign markets with bribes advantages over the competition, gets it not only with domestic prosecutors, but with the American judicial authorities to do. That can go very fast.
A German company only has to settle transactions in dollars or have used an American bank, already the US judiciary can access. Siemens had to pay high penalties in the United States and was also subjected to monitoring by a "monitor" at the request of the US authorities.
Good corporate governance is very important for the reputation of a company
Since then, other German companies have been monitored by the US Department of Justice, including Commerzbank and Volkswagen. But the consequences of the Americans in punitive measures had effect. German companies regarded this monitor as an engine for compliance. "Only clean shops!" became the standard formula in the executive floors.
But now there is a president in the White House who does not care about the moral viability of contracts with other countries as long as they use the US. As a real estate entrepreneur, Trump liked to do handshake himself, often with dubious partners and shirt-sleeved methods. The main thing at the end of a profit comes out.
"All my life I was greedy, greedy, greedy," Trump had said in the election campaign: "I grabbed as much money as I could grab, but now I want to be greedy for the United States." However, anyone who pursues politics and private business on the basis of greed alone should not be surprised if in the eyes of the world he no longer considers himself a keeper of decent business conduct.
With this president, the – albeit unloved – moral-policeman USA seems to be withdrawing from the international fight against corruption in large corporations. This has been noticed very quickly by an important member of the administration in Washington.
US lawyer Hui Chen was brought to the US Department of Justice even in the days of President Barack Obama, to watch global corporations on their way back to virtue and review their efforts in compliance work. But after only a few months under Trump, she has left the Ministry of Justice. When she interviewed companies on compliance issues, she said after saying goodbye, she had thought about the numerous pending cases against the President of the United States – from constitutional breakage to conflicts of interest: "I did not want to go along with that."
With that she hit the US media high waves. The South German newspaper Chen said of Trump's attitude to decent business behavior: "Mr. Trump has a very worrying tone and behavior from the top." "I think his tone and behavior have a negative impact on compliance, everywhere, both domestically and abroad," said Chen.