Germany’s biggest companies are urging Chancellor Angela Merkel to ratify the United Nations Anti-Corruption convention nine years after its inception.
In a letter to the German parliament in Berlin, 35 chief executive officers including DAX-listed Deutsche Bank AG (DBK)’s Juergen Fitschen, Daimler AG (DAI)’s Dieter Zetsche and Allianz SE (ALV)’s Michael Diekmann asked lawmakers to drop their opposition to the convention. Members of the chamber have balked at signing up to the charter since 2003 because they say it might, among other things, curtail their freedom to meet lobbyists.
“The Standard Chartered allegations and now this DAX-led letter highlights how urgent it is to get a final fix to this dilemma,” Joerg van Essen, deputy chief whip of the Free Democratic Party that serves as Merkel’s junior coalition partner, said in a phone interview. “The heat’s on but lawmakers’ constitutional freedoms are not easily altered.”
The dilemma pits the interests of Germany’s biggest exporters seeking “corruption-free and fair competition” abroad against parliamentarians whose freedoms are anchored in the constitution. About 160 countries have ratified the UN convention including most Group of 20 states.
Standard Chartered Plc. is fighting to save its license in the U.S. after a New York regulator said the bank broke U.S. sanctions in processing $250 billion of proscribed deals with Iranian banks. In a separate case, a U.S. Senate committee determined that London-based HSBC gave terrorists, drug cartels and criminals access to the U.S. financial system.
“Being a signatory to the UN convention does not mean much unless its principles are upheld,” said Van Essen, a former state prosecutor.
Parliament’s refusal to sign the convention “hurts German companies’ reputation” in overseas business and raises the country’s legal vulnerability, according to the letter dated June 29, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News.
The letter urges Merkel to pressure lawmakers to accept stricter anti-bribery rules, which are currently limited to outlawing the purchase of votes on bills, as a pre-cursor to Germany signing the convention.
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