A staggering 43 percent of German business executives polled by EY (formerly Ernst & Young) think bribery and corruption are fairly commonplace in Europe's economic powerhouse. That's a big jump from just 26 percent in 2015.So who cares if most of German business is bent, the nation's judicial system ranks with Greece in terms of probity, shareholder protection is amongst the lowest in the developed world and there is little creditor protection? Who cares that courts and lawyers are beyond the reach of most victims, who must passively take the hits from German corrupt dealing? Well, we wrote
This deep and endogenous German economic corruption will not play well in the rest of Europe. The UK, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian nations, with low levels of corruption and high scoring of commercial rectitude and probity, will be feeling fouled by contact with German corruption - and will now be adding up the commercial losses that German crookedness has cost them. The southern nations will be aggrieved that they have been bullied, coerced and hectored by a deeply crooked nation wearing a false disguise of moral superiority. And eastern nations such as Poland and Bulgaria, countries Germany has robbed of billions of Euros in corrupt complicity with Gazprom, will be looking at concrete measures to get their money back.Yesterday Matthew Lynn broke yet another tale of German corruption in the Telegraph. The latest scandal is fraud at Wirecard - a rapidly ascending start-up that replaced the moribund Commerzbank in Germany's DAX index. The Telegraph and the FT are reluctant to be too specific; one suspects m'learned friends are hovering, and even the linked piece in the Anti-Corruption Digest is careful. Lynn writes
We have an image of Germany as a very law-abiding country, and on one level that is certainly true. The streets are safe, and no one can pay a bribe to get out of a parking fine.... yet right at the top of the country’s biggest companies it is starting to look painfully obvious there is an honesty issue.It is the sort of casual, 'who cares?' corruption that saw Martin Selmayr's crooked appointment to EU capo shrugged off and Germany's biggest industrial names reduced to international gutter reputations no better than bootlegging prohibition gangsters.
The Germans are fond of portraying themselves as the exemplars of responsible, socially conscious capitalism. In truth, however, the hypocrisy is starting to become nauseating. There is clearly something rotten within Germany’s business culture – and even worse, no one seems to want to do anything about it.
So don't be surprised that when the downturn begins to bite, the entire German commercial edifice comes tumbling down - and the German economy proves as much of a paper tiger as did Soviet military might in 1989.