Exchange Rates Are Important

One of the derpier things about my current job is that, every year, I need to take mandatory ethics training, specifically on the topic of dealing with representatives of foreign governments.

At my level, I can pretty much be sure that I will NEVER be meeting with any representatives of foreign governments, so it chafes me a little to have to take this thing, especially because some of the scenarios are plain weird.  For example, taking a government official to a championship soccer game is a scenario that is given a red flag, basically a Do Not Do This Ever.  That makes sense, by itself, but it stops making sense when one of the very next examples is “taking a government official to an opera performance” and the assessment is that it is perfectly OK to can take the same government official to see women sing in Italian and die of consumption.

I realize that this is not the plot of EVERY opera.  Sometimes, they sing in German and die of consumption.

But wait, you’re saying, the titular character from Bizet’s “Carmen” dies from being stabbed!

To which I reply: First, you are obviously a higher class of reader than I normally get on this blog, and, second, that my assertion is that she was stabbed WITH consumption.  Oh, and thanks for the spoiler you big jerk.

I may have lost the track here a bit.  Anyway.

This year, they changed up the ethics training, which was good because the previous years were non-specific enough that I wasn’t quite sure whether or not – as a person with dual citizenship – I might occasionally be breaking the rules simply by coming to work and doing my job.

On the other hand, two of the new scenarios were really terrible, and I will present them for you as best as I can recall them:

“You are negotiating a contract with a Japanese official, and he suggests that a payment of Y50,000 would ensure that the contract goes to you and not to a competitor.  If you get this contract, you will be able to recoup the money in about three months.  Should you pay the bribe?”


“You make a payment to a Japanese government agency.  In the payment, you include Y5,000 to be paid directly to a customs inspector.  Is this allowed by the anti-corruption rules?”

To which I reply as follows:

“Well, yes, these are both obviously terrible things… but if it’s going to take you three months to make back five hundred bucks and if you’re trying to bribe the customs guy with fifty bucks, there are fundamental business issues here that no amount of mandatory ethics training is going to help with.”

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