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Corruption watchdog cites Bank of China

Bank of ChinaBERLIN: The Bank of China (right) is the least transparent global public company according to a new report by corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI).

TI has ranked 124 companies, whose combined market value is more than US$14 trillion, on the measures they take to prevent corruption, information about subsidiaries and holdings, and key financial information about overseas operations.

Based on these criteria Honda came 123rd while BHP Billiton, Eni, Statoil and Vodafone topped the list with scores of more than six out of 10. However 90 companies on the index failed to disclose the taxes they pay in foreign countries and 54 gave no information on revenues outside their registered domicile.

TI says UK companies are the most transparent while Chinese companies are the least. All eight cited in the report scored less than three out of 10 and six of them ended in the bottom 11 places. Of this group, TI notes a lack of public support for anti-corruption; only one company has a policy on gifts and hospitality, only one has whistleblower protection and channels for reporting corruption; none explicitly prohibits facilitation payments (bribes used to gain favor); and none discloses financial data in any of the 59 foreign countries where they operate.

Some 44 firms in the TI index are American of which Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and Google performed the worst. The only logistics company on the list - United Parcel Service - ranked No.75 with an overall score of 3.6. TI says only two U.S. companies reported paying taxes in foreign countries - ConocoPhilips in Canada and Walmart in Chile - and Amazon, Apple and Google, who TI says don't state their support for anti-corruption on their websites, all scored less than three out of ten.

"We need more transparency from multinational companies, whose power in the world economy closely rivals the biggest countries," said TI chair, José Ugaz. "With greater economic power comes greater responsibility. Bad corporate behaviour creates the corruption that causes poverty and instability," he added.

The report also suggests the world's biggest oil, gas and mining companies are not ready for new transparency rules that will apply across the European Union from July next year. The new regulations will require extractive companies to report payments to governments on a country-by-country and project-by-project basis. In the U.S., Section 1504 of the 2010 Dodd-Frank act includes similar measures, but TI notes implementation has been delayed by an oil lobby lawsuit.

Of the 24 extractive companies in the report who will be affected by any forthcoming EU and U.S. rules, 19 disclosed tax payments and revenue in less than half the countries they operate. Only BHP Billiton, Statoil and Indian firms ONGC and Reliance came close to disclosing tax payments everywhere.

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