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Trump’s Conflict of Interest “Problem”

January 2, 2017

As the wealthiest modern President of the United States, Donald Trump’s holdings in land, resorts, golf courses and hotels present potential conflicts of interest. And, smelling blood, CNN instituted something that it calls “Conflict of Interest” watch.

Trump’s hotel in the Old Post Office Building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC , for example, has been cited for potential conflictd of interest. As owner of the hotel, he has a conflict of interest when foreign leaders or corporations with federal contracts use the hotel, allegedly, in order to curry favor with the President of the United States.

The presence of Ivanka Trump, her husband, Gerald Kushner and brother, Donald Trump, Jr., at meetings with the Prime Minister of Japan and in a specially convened meeting with high tech, Silicon Valley, executives are indications of other potential conflicts of interest.

Most Americans will ignore these kinds of expressions of “concern” as representative of Media bias or just plain “cheap shots.”  But there is a deeper issue that the new President and his family must face.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter, succeeded in passing legislation making it a crime to bribe foreign officials. I know something about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) because. from 1989 to 1995, I engaged in financial transactions in Poland. The standard bribe was $1 million and American companies that wanted to win competitive bids on public contracts or purchase state owned companies would be asked to pay up.

I wanted to do business in Poland because I had good relations with members of Solidarity and I felt that we sold Poland down the river after the second world war and consigned Poland to subjugation by the Soviet Union.

I was an early entrant into Poland and naive about these things. But, later I realized that French, German and some American companies were bribing Polish officials and company managers and, in light of FCPA I could not compete with those practices.

How then, do American companies do business in countries where ethical standards are not as rigorous as those in the United States?

Yesterday, Rachel Maddow devoted her television program on MSNBC to imply that new Trump hotels and resorts in Indonesia were made possible by Carl Icahn’s influence in Indonesia based upon his large interest in the world’s largest copper and gold mining company.

FCPA makes it illegal for American companies and their supervisors to influence foreign officials with any personal payments or rewards, so get ready for the U.S. Senate to make this an issue when Cabinet nominees are scrutinized by the U.S. Senate.


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