Corruption in Siemens

Por: Laura Paola Villa García | Posted on August 30, 2019


Until 1999, German legislation allowed certain bribe to be tax deductible for companies. They could simply label them as “useful expenditure” as long as they were not done in Germany and did not involve foreign public officials. This situation finally changed when Germany paired its legislation to the Anti bribery Convention of the OECD, making the act of bribing a foreign official illegal.

Facts: Who gave what to whom and why?

Siemens, one of the world’s biggest companies, which is also recognized for its technology in the areas of telecommunications, energy, transportation and medical equipment, was involved in a global system of corruption in order to increase its market share and prices.

During decades Siemens had bribed public officials all over the world, including Russia, México, Greece, Norway, Nigeria, Iraq, Bangladesh, among other countries.

The bribes were syphoned off through obscure bank accounts, intermediaries and consultants and were registered as “useful expenditures”. Siemens made around 4,200 payments in bribes, which add up to USD $1.4 billion. These payments had the objective of convincing governments to make transactions with the company.

After investigations carried out in US, Germany and Italy, Siemens payed more than USD $1.6 billion in fines, including USD $800 million to the US Department of Justice.


Applicable Law

  • Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
  • Sabarnes-Oxley Act
  • Securities and Exchange Act

Why is this case relevant?

Siemens is an iconic case not only for the scale of the corruption practices but also for the total amount of fines imposed. According to Linda Thomsen, director of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), at the time, the corruption net involved more than USD$1.4 billion in bribes payed to public officials in Asia, Africa, Europe, Middle East and America.

Lessons learned

From the Siemens case we can learn that in order to prevent the further spread and systematization of corruption, effective compliance systems must be implemented as well as companies that pay bribes to foreign public officials should be punished.

What type of corruption is it and what are the crimes involved?

The crime committed at Siemens is bribery of foreign public officials, known as foreign bribery, which occurs when, in relation to the conduct of international business, a legal o natural persona pays a bribe to a) a public official of a foreign government; b) an official of an international organization; or c) a member of a foreign political party.

References (Harvard – Anglia)

Justice, T. U. S. D. o., 2019. The United States Department of Justice. [Online]
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Conversation, T., 2018. The Conversation. [Online]
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International, T., 2019. Transparency International the global coalition against corruption. [Online]
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Professor, F., 2011. FCPA Professor. [Online]
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"Corruption in Siemens"; Laura Paola Villa García, México, 2019.