Le chiffre de cette semaine :
Multinational commodities giant Glencore was last week ordered by a US judge to pay $700-millionin fines, bringing to $1.5-billion the total that the company has had to cough up so far for decades of misdeeds.
Glencore pleaded guilty last year to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in seven countries over a decade and to commodity price manipulation.
US Attorney-General Merrick Garland commented that “the rule of law requires that there not be one rule for the powerful; one rule for the rich and another for the poor”.
This was indeed one of the largest settlements ever in a corruption and commodities fraud case — but still just a drop in the bucket when compared to the $34-billion in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation that Glencore announced just three weeks before.
A simultaneous attempt to carve out a victim’s compensation fund for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) from the Glencore payout proved fruitless, though the government in Kinshasa did get $125-million.
J. Peter Pham, a former US special envoy for the Great Lakes, pointed out that the penalty that Glencore is paying is dwarfed by the value that it gained through its bad conduct.
Glencore claims to have cleaned up its act and reformed itself, yet it offers a compelling case study of how corporations have corrupted Africa and kept the continent poor.
At the time of the Glencore guilty plea, US attorney Damian Williams characterised Glencore’s conduct in these words:
“The scope of this criminal bribery scheme is staggering. Glencore paid bribes to secure oil contracts. Glencore paid bribes to avoid government audits. Glencore bribed judges to make lawsuits disappear. At bottom, Glencore paid bribes to make money — hundreds of millions of dollars. And it did so with the approval, and even encouragement, of its top executives.”