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Business leaders call on OECD Ministers to “act against international corruption”

On the eve of the OECD Ministerial meeting in Paris, European business leaders have called on European governments to criminalise international corruption and to end tax-deductibility of bribes paid to officials abroad.

The senior managers made their appeal in an open letter sent to OECD Economic Ministers on 21 May 1997.

The business leaders that have signed the letter were:

  • Paul Batchelor, Regional Executive Partner Europe, Coopers & Lybrand, United Kingdom
  • Marcus Bierich, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Robert Bosch GmbH, Germany
  • Michel Bon, Chairman and CEO of France Telecom, France
  • François Cornelis, Chief Executive Officer, Petrofina, Belgium
  • Vicomte Etienne Davignon, Chairman of the Board, Société Générale de Belgique, Belgium
  • Pere Duran Farell, President, Grupo Gas Natural, Spain
  • Hermann Franz, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Siemens AG, Germany
  • Otmar Haas, Chairman, Haas Consult, Germany
  • Baron Daniel Janssen, Chairman of the Executive Committee, Solvay S.A., Belgium
  • Wilfried Kaiser, Member of the Board, Asea Brown Boveri AG, Germany
  • Mathias Kleinert, Senior Vice President, Daimler Benz AG , Germany
  • Wolf R. Klinz, Chairman of the Board, Hartmann & Braun, Germany
  • Klaus Krone, Chairman of the Board, Krone AG, Germany
  • Sergio Pininfarina, President & Managing Director, Industrie Pininfarina SpA, Italy
  • Marco Tronchetti Provera, President & Managing Director, Pirelli SpA, Italy
  • Harald Rieger, Member of the Board, Metallgesellschaft AG, Germany

Note to editors
The same press release has also been issued by the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris. For further information, Transparency International, Tel.+49-30-3439200, Fax +49-30-3470 3912, email:

Open letter from European business leaders to OECD Economic ministers

All over Europe there have been a series of scandals related to bribery. Public opinion is aroused and there is widespread awareness that corruption undermines the foundations of our democratic societies and our market economies.

European business enterprises cannot remain silent. Together with their colleagues from other continents, they have expressed their unequivocal views in the March 1996 Report of the International Chamber of Commerce on Extortion and Bribery in International Business Transactions. The Report, a revised version of rules first promulgated in 1977, contains stringent rules of conduct to combat extortion and bribery through corporate self-regulation. Starting with the simple command, "No one may demand or accept a bribe", the Rules outlaw kickbacks, unreported political contributions, inflated payments to agents and all forms of bribery, whatever their purpose or motivation.

Many of us have been actively supporting the efforts of Transparency International, a non-governmental organisation dedicated to curbing corruption in international business relations, which in particular addressed a memorandum to the European Union in November 1995 "The Fight Against International Corruption: What the European Union can do". TI called on the EU to make use of the legal instruments at its disposal in the fight against international corruption. It also asked the EU to demonstrate global leadership in bringing about action on a wider, global scale.

We recognise that combating corruption must be everyone's concern. As European business leaders, we restate our commitment to have our companies abstain from bribery and to conduct effective self-regulation progammes.

We also recognise that fully effective reforms will require political and legislative action. To that end we specifically endorse action by the European Union and by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The European Union has devoted enormous resources to create a unified market free from obstacles to competition. However, corruption continues to distort competition and to disrupt trade flows. We are convinced that European authorities, both at the Union and at national levels must take positive steps to resist corruption in all its forms, and thereby strengthen competition.

While domestic bribery is already prohibited in all EU member states, most states do not criminalise bribery of foreign officials; this despite a 1994 Recommendation by the OECD that its member states pass legislation to that end.

Clearly, EU countries should act in a prompt and coordinated manner to enforce the OECD Recommendation. Indeed, unless EU member countries act in concert, companies in one EU state complying with the Recommendation will be at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis their colleagues in other EU countries not imposing these sanctions.

A good start towards unified EU action on corruption has already been made with a recent EU protocol which would outlaw cross-border bribery within the EU. We call on EU countries to take the next logical step by agreeing on united action to prohibit bribery beyond the EU's borders. Another key to fight bribery is to eliminate tax deductibility for foreign bribes. The OECD, in May 1996, called for the end of such tax deductibility by all of its 29 member states. Although some European Governments have started to take legislative action to implement the Recommendation, others have yet to act. Tax deductibility for foreign bribes should be stopped in an internationally coordinated manner.

As businessmen, we call on the EU states to eliminate the scourge of bribery from international as well as domestic transactions. This means implementation without delay of the OECD Recommendations. Effective monitoring mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that these essential measures are effectively enforced.

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