Here is your flat-world global economy: Siemens, the German engineering conglomerate, just paid $1.6 billion in fees for all the bribery they've been up to since the end of World War II, back when they were Nazis.

Lol corporatism: Siemens, the biggest electronics company in the world, is a modern global engineering conglomerate that makes billions of dollar every year and employs half a million people. In the 1930s of course as a giant German engineering firm they had to go along to get along through funding the Nazi party, secretly rearming Germany, and employing slave labor from concentration camp residents to build mechanical switches. Now in this wonderful modern era they are bigger and better than ever before, and to remain competitive in this global marketplace, they had an annual bribery budget of $50 million for greasing the palms of corrupt officials in Nigeria, Russia, Liberia, and anywhere else where it'd help win a lucrative contract for their telecommunications unit.

Fifty years after WWII, Siemans gave their slave laborers $12 million in apology money. Last week, three years after the Siemans bribery case was opened, the company paid $1.6 billion in fines. (Justice is faster when your crimes pissed off other multinational telecommunications contractors that set aside less cash for bribery.)

But at least, in their own way, they made amends to the Jewish community: "In Israel, the company provided $20 million to senior government officials to build power plants."

Anyways the company pleaded guilty to "accounting violations" here in the US, because if they'd actually pleaded guilty to the bribery everyone acknowledges they engaged in they would no longer be allowed to bid on US government contracts, and for some fucking reason the Justice Department wanted to make sure Siemens could continue to bid on US government contracts even though they're guilty of bribery.

Of course this sort of institutionalized corporate bribery, leading as it usually does to strengthening corrupt repressive regimes and overcharging developing nations for essential services, was not even illegal in Germany until like 1999.

This is all from the quite good New York Times piece on the history of the bribery. The piece also represents the future of investigative journalism, because it's a joint report from the Times, PBS's Frontline, and ProPublica, the non-profit investigative journalism organization that will be the last newsroom left in the world willing to pay people to do this sort of story, because Jeff Jarvis told all the newspapers to "create good hyperlocal networks."