Top Menu

Appearances Matter – President Obama Hobnobs With Siemens Executives Who Provide Him Something of Value

Barack Obama bekam bei seinem Besuch am Siemens-Stand von CEO Joe Kaeser einen Golfschläger geschenkt. "Jetzt kann ich Angela beibringen, wie man Golf spielt", scherzte der US-Präsident.

Barack Obama received a golf club as a give-away from CEO Joe Kaeser while visiting the Siemens booth. "Now I am going to teach Angela how to play," the president joked.

Granted, it happened in late 2008.

The “it” is the Siemens Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action in which the U.S. government stated, among other things, that “for much of its operations across the globe, bribery was nothing less than standard operating procedure for Siemens” and that the “pattern of bribery by Siemens was unprecedented in scale and geographic reach.”

According to the U.S. government, Siemens’ conduct was “egregious,” “staggering,” “brazen,” and “systematic;” and that there existed a “corporate culture in which bribery was tolerated and even rewarded at the highest levels of the company.”

In 2008, Siemens resolved parallel DOJ/SEC FCPA enforcement actions by agreeing to pay $800 million (still the largest FCPA settlement amount of all-time – see here for the current top ten list).

Although approximately 7.5 years have passed since 2008, the Siemens FCPA enforcement action remains an active issue for the U.S. government. Indeed, as highlighted in this recent post, the DOJ is seeking to block release of the Siemens’ Monitor Reports.

President Obama’s Justice Department has frequently used breathless rhetoric when describing its FCPA enforcement program. A few examples include:

“‘We in the United States are in a unique position to spread the gospel of anti-corruption,” and

FCPA enforcement ‘‘is our way of ensuring not only that the Justice Department is on the right side of history, but also that it has a hand in advancing that history”

Yet as highlighted in this video, earlier this week in Germany President Obama hobnobbed with Siemens executives saying that “Siemens is a great company and we appreciate your presence in the United States.”

Appearances matter.

Not only that, but Siemens provided President Obama (the soon-to-be former President who has a well-known passion for golf) something of value: personalized Calloway golf clubs that incorporate Siemens technology.

Big deal, you might say.

But consider that the Obama Justice Department frequently brings FCPA enforcement actions against business organizations which contain allegations about companies providing alleged “foreign officials” such nominal things of value such flowers, cigarettes, bottles of wine; karaoke bars; tea sets; and most recently “golf in the morning and beer drinking in the evening.”

Appearances matter.

You might say there was no corrupt intent in Siemens providing President Obama with a golf club. You are probably right.

But here again consider – was there anything corrupt intent in business organizations providing the above things of value to alleged “foreign officials.” Sure some of those enforcement actions did allege a random e-mail talking about the importance of the “foreign official.”

Surely there are internal Siemens e-mails which could easily be viewed in isolation in which employees are talking about President Obama’s visit, his interest in golf, and how a golf club would be a fitting gift.

Moreover, as Siemens’s CEO stated in this recent Wall Street Journal article, the company’s goal in hosting President Obama was for Mr. Obama to walk away saying something like, “Wow, this is really digitalization at work.”

Appearances matter.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes