German companies push to join anti-graft treaty

Major German companies including auto maker Daimler and engineering giant Siemens have written to lawmakers urging them to ratify an international anti-corruption treaty, warning that failure to do so risks harming the reputation of German firms abroad.

Germany is one of just a handful of nations whose parliament hasn't formally approved the U.N. Convention Against Corruption — though the government signed the treaty in 2003. Other holdouts include Sudan, Japan, Syria, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and the Czech Republic.

One of the hurdles to ratification is the absence of clear legislation in Germany that would punish bribery of lawmakers, according to the letter sent in June but only publicized Wednesday.

"Honest parliamentarians have nothing to fear from tighter rules," the CEOs wrote in their letter.

German companies were in the past involved in several cases of bribery of foreign officials to secure contracts.

The practice led to heavy fines, including for Siemens, which paid penalties totaling over $1 billion in Germany and the United States.

Daimler agreed in 2010 on $185 million in civil and criminal payments to U.S. authorities over bribes paid to win sales in various countries. The company has appointed an integrity officer to its board and an ombudsman for potential whistleblowers to approach.

Berlin-based anti-graft watchdog Transparency International said Germany has been keen to combat corruption in developing countries while failing to ratify a convention already approved by 161 nations, including the United States.

Germany's Parliament is currently on its summer recess. It is due to reconvene next month.