Is virtue a new pragmatism ?18/12/2017

Corruption

Although when some people talk about Peru or other Latin American countries, they stress that corruption is the magic key that opens and permits everything, that "hecha la ley hecha la trampa" (every law has its loophole), they mention a time and a number of people, including some officials that they remember... with the risks that this entails.

Current events show that breaking the rules, cheating and acting immorally or even inhumanely are the symptoms of an endemic epidemic affecting the planet as a whole. Scandals, trials, falls from grace, manipulation and excess can be found everywhere, in the political, commercial, industrial, religious, educational, artistic, social and many other sectors. This applies whether we are talking about trafficking in persons, modern slavery, violence, rape, murder, large-scale pollution, dishonesty regarding toxic emissions, planned obsolescence, tax havens or optimisation that is questionable or not illegal but reproachable as it is at odds with the examples we expect; sometimes it is even committed by States and leaders.

Peru is far from being an exception in this area. Current President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (whose party is the minority in Congress) is currently in the hot seat, with demands for his resignation due to suspicions of corruption in the now international Odebrechts affair. Apart from the damage in Brazil, with the Vice-President of Ecuador also being dismissed and arrested, the management of Mr Kuczynski's business affairs and the conflicts of interest due to his position when he was still "only" a minister, almost cost him the presidency. His predecessor President Ollanta Humala and his wife Nadine were sent to prison, the previous President Alejandro Toledo is wanted for... corruption and unjust enrichment, the President before him (interim President [for eight months] Paniagua does not currently seem to be involved) Alan Garcia is facing questions from the courts. Finally, President Alberto Fujimori was imprisoned, but the country has been divided regarding his "presidential pardon" or "indulto presidencial" by current President Kuczynski and the lifting of his sentence. This is because it was perceived by the public and many officials to be an arrangement between him and the opposition (the majority party) to get Kenji Fujimori (MP and son of the imprisoned President Fujimori) to abstain and block his removal; this removal was being demanded by the majority parliamentary group of former Presidential candidate Keiki Fujimori (daughter of the former President and sister of Keiji Fujimori). A sort of "If you guarantee that you will release my sick father in time for Christmas, for humanitarian reasons, I will block your deposition. If you don't, I will let them remove you". This, too, raises questions about what the law really allows, what customs and morality would demand and what this will mean.    

A major anti-corruption operation had been launched in the country a few years previously and will be strengthened with additional implications in 2018.

Law 30434 and legislative decree 1352 which also implicates legal persons in prevention, action or involvement in corruption, collusion, money laundering, illegal mining and/or terrorism. It could even imply that anyone seen to do nothing may be suspected, with no other evidence against them than the fact that they did not do it due to a lack of identification with the desire for virtue. This leads to the potential suspicion that this inaction and lack of proactivity in dealing with the illegality are because the (natural or legal) persons who have refrained from active involvement are or could be involved in one or more aspects of these actions.

Questionable legal practices, tax optimisation, tax havens, tax evasion, tax and other forms of fraud, corruption, cheating, lying, scams, influence peddling, abuses of power, collusion, insider trading, nepotism, discriminatory, sexist or "inappropriate" behaviour or behaviour associated with one or more crimes such as rape, are carried out by a large number of people, but also lead to questions, reshuffles, reorganisations or new ways of dealing with the behaviour, party politics, business, societies and images !

A large number of “whistle-blowers”, aids for people in danger, denunciations, accusations, challenges, political and other forms of vengeance target the current and/or past behaviour of contributors and the policies of parties, movements, companies, groups and people.

Put to use like rarely before, Foucault's pendulum is used to move from stasis and the denial of damages and the reprehensible, even the possible questioning of people, to real witch hunts with political, media and web-based "lynchings" and administrative, political, police, legal, penal, media and citizen campaigns on social media; this could lead to us mistrusting the next-door shadow due to the current inherent risks.  

This reminds us of the problems of Messrs Chirac, Sarkozy, Tapie and Dominique Strauss Khan, a huge number of prelates and other clergymen, the questioning of Presidents and former Presidents in Brazil, the deposition, arrest and sentencing of the South Korean President, the difficulties faced by President Clinton and the suicides of politicians and others. North American senators, big Hollywood names and others have also been denounced or have lost elections due to accusations of poor behaviour. And questions are starting to be asked about President Trump following recordings made without his knowledge that reveal abusive behaviour. Even the Mons Love Film Festival could be cancelled this year due to an anonymous letter denouncing questionable sexual practices by one of its organisers.

Banks, financiers and businessmen have faced problems and record fines, with scandals affecting people such as Bernard Lawrence Madoff, Jérôme Kerviel and others. These follow on from the major scandals and stock exchange crashes of 1929 and 2008, the subprime crisis and others.  Ratings agencies with often strange evaluations sometimes seem to obey the orders of the authorities more readily than certain market anomalies.

The Panama papers and the Paradise papers have also shown that States, Heads of State, royalty, Ministers and public and private businesses have been playing innocent for quite some time whilst adopting and maintaining attitudes and processes that if not illegal were at least ethically and morally questionable, etc.

But if being honest is virtuous and recommendable, the problem is that you have to be able to prove to the administration that you are honest and that you and your colleagues, suppliers, clients, intermediaries, personnel, management, partners, etc. are working in this way. Otherwise, you risk being presumed not innocent, in view of the fact that the global trend is no longer in this direction.  

But, then, how can we get back to a presumption of innocence and virtue, as well as inspire all our internal, external and other contacts not only with our all-out probity policy but also with our desire to only work with and for people and groups that share this desire, showing them on the one hand the risks of not complying and on the other the possible advantages of being among the ranks of the truly virtuous.

Many people are wondering how to achieve this without automatically disappearing from ruthless markets.

Some European Chambers and media are stressing the "need to clean up the markets", without providing the key(s) to doing so. It is a bit like telling your family that “it is not good to lie”, while half- frowning and half-laughing and putting your finger on your lips.

So in this context, Chamber of Commerce and Culture of Belgium and Luxembourg in Peru, assisted by its legal department and external studies by lawyers, has taken on a specific task, i.e. preparing a Kit that is ready for use and intended for a number of purposes: take on the resolution, prepare the risk map, preparation for checking compliance, communication to third parties including existing or potential employees and clients and making them a lever for excellence, advertising and sales by positioning itself as such at the start or as early as possible. There is certainly a "cosmetic" section ready for use, but also a section intended to inform, guide and protect. It has also been broadly validated by lawyers' groups.

It is obviously not a magic wand, but rather a reliable and pragmatic tool that aims to generate an appetite for the virtuous and transform what was perceived as a form of naïve practice into a societary weapon (that will, of course, have to be constantly improved) for markets, a lever for success and a safeguard for maintaining this success.