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Under The Bus

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The Daily Diatribe: Rio Tinto, the Australian mining company, shamed itself by firing its top iron salesman to China along with three former Chinese colleagues moments after they were convicted by a Chinese court for bribery. Whether or not the men were guilty begs the question. The Chinese court system, long known, for being kangaroo like, did not disappoint in the severity of the punishment. Here’s what bothers me. Within hours of the men being sentenced, Tom Albanese, chief executive of the Anglo-Australian miner, said the case would not jeopardize relations with China, the group’s biggest customer. No kidding. Anything to keep the orders flowing.

Meanwhile, the Australian government criticized both the sentences and the Chinese judicial process. The sentences, which included 10 years in prison for the Australian citizen, Mr Hu, are tough by any measure. Australia also rebuked China for closing the commercial secrets part of the trial saying that the move had left, “serious unanswered questions.”

Not for Rio Tinto. They have their answers. While their guy sits in a Chinese prison, they are enjoying dim sum in Beijing. Folks, this stinks and gets to the unsavory heart of capitalism. If the employees are crooks, then fine; but, there are too many unanswered questions to not pull a Tammy Wynette here, at least  until all the facts are out.

For now, Rio Tinto has kept their biggest customer happy. So, let me ask all you business owners out there a question. Suppose the same set of circumstances fell upon you. This is no different than Tylenol and Johnson and Johnson or The Beatrice Foods scandal of a few years back. Do you take the money and keep on trucking or do you suck it up and do the right thing?

My guess is that, because of the narrow self interest that defines us all, we’d take the money and I find that telling about where we are as a nation.

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