How Tesla Prevents Corruption


Recently while researching material for one of my anti-money laundering (AML) training courses, I came across the 5 page anti-corruption policy of Tesla, the electric car company. It states in bold print…. ‘Boiled down to its essence, our policy is: Don’t offer any bribe to anybody, anytime, for any reason.’

Tesla’s brief and to the point anti-bribery policy explains, “Involvement in bribery or corruption can result in lasting damage to our brand and our reputation. It can also result in multi-million-dollar fines and penalties, plus jail time for participants.”

The message is loud and clear. If any business wants to remain respectable and maintain its reputation it needs to communicate this to its employees and associated third parties. It’s much more effective than merely saying… “we don’t do corruption because I said so”.

Money laundering is often stage two of a crime or series of crimes that have already occurred e.g., the bribe has been given/accepted and now needs to be ‘concealed’ – ‘concealment’ being a key feature in AML cases.

Other reasons why money laundering, bribery and corruption are bad ideas include:

  1. Bribe takers/payers become hostages to fortune – they are always at risk of being pressured into taking/making more bribes. Once is never enough.
  2. Often, bribes are paid through intermediaries who can become blackmailers.
  3. Bribes will usually lead to the accounting records of the entity being falsely prepared to help hide the original illegal act, leading to a wider range of offences including indictable offence reporting to the ODCE where an audit client is involved. They go into the books as something else — consultancy fees, motor expenses, transport costs, commissions etc.
  4. Bribery leads to greed. Demands for bribes can be very “fluid.” Once the payer reveals a weakness in being open to giving a bribe, the bribe taker’s appetite for more becomes unquenchable.
  5. The risk of fraud is multiplied. Where intermediaries are involved, they may say the bribe is for €5,000, but how can the bribe payer know for sure?
  6. Bribery often triggers other criminal activity which ensnares those involved. People often fall into the intellectual trap that says “I deserve this, it’s so small, it’s just this time”
  7. While bribes can help a company enjoy short-lived success, in the end it leads to misery.

See the World Misery Index produced by Johns Hopkins University Professor Steve Hanke. The index assumes that higher unemployment and worsening inflation create economic and social costs for a country leading to more crime. The index is built using the sum of the country’s interest, inflation, and unemployment rates, minus the year-on-year percentage change in per-capita GDP growth.

In the latest version of this index from 2020, with 156 countries included, Venezuela comes out as the most miserable country in the world and Ireland at 135th, is much less miserable than the US (109) and the UK (87).

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