As the world discusses the new trailers and counts the days until “The Force Awakens” in the movie theaters, we can take one of the classic movies to analyze a common corruption risk: missing economic certainty.
The notorious gambler Lando Calrissian won the mining facility Cloud City from its former ruler in a game of Sabacc. To everybody’s surprise with this new role Lando became a responsible leader and manager. His idea was to keep the business running, while keeping it low-file and out of the interest of the Empire. This strategy was working well, until the group around his old friend Han Solo arrived at the Cloud City space-port. As the bounty-hunter Boba Fett had attached a locator at the Millennium Falcon, the Empire learnt about the flight destination and could arrive even before the rebel group.
Darth Vader personally “agreed” with Lando that he could keep up with his local business, if he would keep the group temporally his prisoners and so trigger the primary target Luke Skywalker to come here. In the process of the operations the Evil Lord changed twice the agreement. First that Han Solo had to be handed over in frozen Carbonite to the bounty hunter and a second time that Leia, Chewbacca, C3PO and R2D2 had to stay permanently at Cloud City.
Due to uneven balance of power, Lando had no other choice than to accept in the moment, but he understood that the Empire never would be a reliable partner: “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.” He decided to step back from his actual business opportunity and to fight the evil and corrupt Empire.
This happened in a galaxy far, far away, but similar cases we had also on our planet. Corrupt people normally know whom they can ask and whom not. In the beginning it is difficult to resist and deny such an illegal payment, as your business may face harassment, but it sends a signal that you are not willing to bribe and normally you will not get asked again. On the other hand, if you paid once, for every transaction you need to bribe again. Corrupt people are aware that you are not only willing to bypass laws and regulations, but that you are now vulnerable. If past illegal payments get transparent, your company can face painful fines; black-listening and the single employee will lose its job and even can become the target of a legal investigation. For this illegal payments get higher over the time, and as a direct result the profit goes down. With other words, “this deal is getting worse all the time.”
Mostly it is possible to deny the bribe right from the beginning and still be able to close the business after overcoming the difficulties. But in other cases the company has to come to the same result as Lando Calrissian: the only possibility not to risk the company, is to step back from the business opportunity, as in fact there is no opportunity.
Lucas, George (1980): “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire strikes back”