A week or so ago, the pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson had to agree to pay some $70 million dollars to settle criminal and civil charges that they bribed doctors in Europe to use their drugs. They were also accused of paying kickbacks to the Iraqi government in order to maintain their business interests in that country. They settled the charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission without admitting or denying guilt.
But the SEC says that this well known family company was guilty of providing money and travel gifts to doctors all over Europe and with illegally obtaining contracts in Iraq under the United Nations Oil for Food program. (USA Today, 4/7/2010)
About this same time, I saw an article in the “National Geographic” on culture. It seems that bribery is so rampant in so many countries that some cultures are fighting back by designing and printing paper money that is worth absolutely nothing. The idea is that these worthless notes can be given out as a sort of “polite protest to officials trying to squeeze extra payment for routine services.” They are usually printed on thicker stock and are slightly larger in size and thus easy to spot.
In a situation that might normally call for a sizable bribe, people hand out these notes and the hope is that public servants will be shamed into more appropriate behavior. Apparently, these zero-currency bills are being used in India, Mexico and Nepal.
As I did a little more research, I came across something called the “Corruption Perceptions Index.” This is a controversial poll published by Transparency International that covered some 180 countries in their 2007 survey. It orders the countries according to “the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians.” It seems that Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore all tied for the very best scores. The United States ranked 22nd and the bottom seven countries were Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Somalia, Belize, Grenada and Saint Lucia.
It appears that more countries need to be printing bribe-shaming zero currency for their people!
Or maybe we all need to just review the details of the story in Acts 5. You may remember that Ananias and Sapphira sold a bit of land. They belonged to the church in Jerusalem that was sharing all things in common. Barnabas had recently sold some land and brought all the proceeds to share with the church. Ananias and his wife wanted some of that popularity, so they matched the giving. The problem is they lied about how much they got for the sale.
They were under no compunction to give all the proceeds away, it was just expected that they would not lie about the size of the gift. As they were confronted about their lack of integrity, you and I should note the results. “Ananias fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.” A few verses later when Sapphira was confronted with the fact that “the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door and they will carry you out… immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last.” (Acts 5:1-11)
The lesson to be applied this week is that honesty and integrity still matter. We shouldn’t need to use fake money in order to shame our government officials out of taking bribes. Our major companies ought not to have to slip doctors or politicians money in order to do business. And you and I need to be open and transparent in all our financial affairs. It is a great week to be honest!
By His Grace and for His Glory,
Sherry L. Worel