Davos's Dubious Strategic Partners
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Fri Jan 25 00:27:44 GMT 2013
James Gibney may have lost his job now - but this is a great article
Now deleted from the Bloomberg site
Davos's Dubious Strategic Partners
By James Gibney Jan 23, 2013 1:27 PM GMT+0000
The aspirational hypocrisy of the World Economic Forum is enshrined
in its motto: "Committed to Improving the State of the World." Unlike
other storied global conspiracies -- the Trilateral Commission, for
example, or the Bilderberg Group and the Bohemian Club -- whose
members are presumed to be in it just for the filthy lucre and
power-mongering, the WEF makes a big deal of its embrace of
rainbow-hued do-gooders. The Forum is forever trumpeting its
commitment to transparency and inclusiveness along with a burgeoning
list of initiatives to advance the same.
But let's follow the money -- where it comes from and where it goes,
starting with the 100-plus strategic partners who, as the forum puts
it, "comprise some of the world's leading corporate citizens and
provide essential leadership in support of the Forum's mission." In
2012, they contributed slightly more than half the WEF's revenues
(some 178 million Swiss francs, or about $192 million).
Consider one such leading corporate citizen: Axel Weber, co-chairman
of this year's Davos meetings and chairman of UBS, Switzerland's
largest bank. Last year, his company was fined $1.5 billion for its
schemes to rig global interest rates. The U.S. Commodity Futures
Trading Commission cited more than 2,000 instances of illegal acts
involving dozens of UBS employees. And that scandal followed a $780
million U.S. settlement in 2009 over charges that the bank had helped
U.S. clients avoid taxes. WEF founder Klaus Schwab's choice of Mr.
Weber as co-chairman perhaps speaks volumes about his own values.
Other strategic partners include Bank of America Corp., which just
agreed to pay Fannie Mae $10 billion to settle allegations that it
had improperly handled mortgages; Barclays Plc, which also paid
nearly a half-billion dollars in a settlement over manipulating
interest rates and faces record fines for trying to fiddle energy
markets; Citigroup Inc., which last year settled a lawsuit over
sub-prime mortgages for $590 million; Credit Suisse, out more than a
half-billion dollars for money laundering. I'll stop at the C's,
leaving out Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Standard Chartered,
and other financial strategic partners that are either under
investigation or have collectively paid billions in fines for a
variety of bad behaviors. I also won't go into the various
settlements over allegations of bribery and bid-rigging by some of
WEF's non-financial strategic partners, such as ABB and Accenture.
These companies may have skipped all the Davos sessions on
transparency, ethics and holding stakeholders in high regard, but
they have done wonders for the Forum's bottom line. From 2002 to
2012, partnership revenue more than quadrupled as overall revenue
more than doubled. The Forum's headcount, meanwhile, has gone from
139 full-time staff members to 371.
Many of these people do good work, putting out interesting reports
and holding one heck of a global salon. But the interests they
represent are corporate -- no more, no less. "Improving the state of
the world," added to the Forum's logo well into its third decade,
comes behind networking and dealmaking.
A recent quote from Sir Martin Sorrell, chairman of WPP -- another
Forum strategic partner -- is instructive. Asked about the right
model for corporate taxation, he magnanimously told the BBC: "The
right model is you make a contribution. All contributions you make to
your stakeholders are a question of judgment. There are the rules,"
he said. "If then companies choose... in terms of building their
long-term brands to make a contribution to all the stakeholders, all
credit to them." Payment of taxes, in other words, is at the
discretion of global corporations.
That's mighty generous of you, Sir Martin. As Oliver Twist once said,
"Please, sir, I want some more."
I have a modest proposal for the Forum's strategic partners: If you
want to improve the state of the world, start by obeying laws and
paying your taxes. Until then, spare us the high-minded,
(James Gibney is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.
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"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."
"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which
alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
Fear not therefore: for there is nothing covered that shall not be
revealed; and nothing hid that shall not be made known. What I tell
you in darkness, that speak ye in the light and what ye hear in the
ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. Matthew 10:26-27
Die Pride and Envie; Flesh, take the poor's advice.
Covetousnesse be gon: Come, Truth and Love arise.
Patience take the Crown; throw Anger out of dores:
Cast out Hypocrisie and Lust, which follows whores:
Then England sit in rest; Thy sorrows will have end;
Thy Sons will live in peace, and each will be a friend.
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