Daimler, the German giant behind the Mercedes-Benz automotive and truck business, has pleaded guilty to corruption charges brought by the U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and agreed to pay $185 million in penalties for its bribery practices.
In a 76-page filing in federal court, U.S. prosecutors said between 1988 and 2008, Daimler paid at least US$56 million in bribes to foreign officials in at least 22 countries that included China, Russia, Egypt, Greece and Nigeria. Among others, the SEC said that Daimler spent 11,000 (about US$15,000) to pay for a luxurious vacation in Europe for six Chinese officials, adding that another 16 such trips were connected with $120 million in vehicle sales to the Chinese government. (Well, I guess that is the way how to conclude business deals in China!)
According to the SEC, Daimler allegedly earned $1.9 billion in revenue and at least $91.4 million in illegal profits from transactions connected to bribes. Diamler fully cooperated with the authorities during the investigation and showed excellent coorperation, according to U.S. prosecutor John Darden. Aside from paying the fine, Daimler also fired about 45 employees and disciplined another 300 people that were connected to the case.
Daimler's bribery case is not the first time that a German firm has been found guilty for shady business practices. Back in 2008, Siemens agreed to pay $800 million to settle a US investigation concerning bribes paid to officials to secure contracts in Argentina, Bangladesh, Iraq and Venezuela.
Personally, I believe that perhaps some other automakers are also guilty of such practices, just that they are not caught yet. As the saying goes - you can do whatever you want, just don't get caught!