Costly Bribes

The Siemens company, one of the contractors on Department of Energy projects in Oak Ridge, has paid a $1.6 billion fine, the largest every levied, for bribing public officials around the world in order to get contracts, according to The New York Times.

The German company is alleged to have paid $1.4 billion in bribes to obtain contracts between 2001 and 2007. The company spent $1 billion in its defense and internal investigation in the U.S. They were charged in the U.S. because company stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The U.S. charges were reduced to violations of accounting practices. A bribery conviction in the U.S. would have prevented the company from bidding on future DOE contracts. The Times report does not indicate that any of the bribes were paid in the U.S.

The company budgeted $40 million to $50 million a year to a special bribe slush fund, routed through Swiss banks. The company spent $1.4 billion on bribes, paid $1 billion for the investigation, and then paid a $1.6 billion fine.

Klaus Kleinfeld, the Siemens company CEO, resigned in the wake of the investigation. He is now the CEO of ALCOA, the aluminum company with operations in Blount Co. and in Knoxville.

Fill Out the Right Form

Local druggists complained to the state Department of Insurance for four months about an insurance company adjusting their reimbursements after the fact and paying them less than the agreed price. After Metro Pulse reported their frustration, the state got in touch.

Seems the druggists had not filled out the proper forms and done the necessary paperwork in order to prompt a state probe. They have now done so.

Historic Low

Is this recession the worst in modern Tennessee history?

Despite the state's history of financial crises when the economy hits a recession, conservative legislators always countered that the state has never taken in less revenue than the year before—the financial shortfalls were prompted by increases in state spending.

Legislators say state officials have confirmed there has never been less revenue than the year before, since 1968, when reliable record keeping began. But this year, it's different. State budgeting officials predict Tennessee will take in less revenue this year than the year before for the first time.

Dr. William Fox, a University of Tennessee economist who has frequently testified before legislators on budget matters and is a critic of the state tax system, agreed with the less revenue assessment, on WATE's Sunday talk show with Gene Patterson.

Bonus Voters

Joe Carson is still pursuing incentives to make Knoxville the "voting capital" of Tennessee. He argues that regular voters are stable citizens and good risks for insurance companies and he has proposed to USAA insurance company that it experiment with offering discounts on insurance rates for regular voters. The insurance company said "not at this time" but said it would study the matter.

Carson says he will now propose to the state Election Commission, the state insurance commissioner, and to Gov. Phil Bredesen that the state encourage a state-regulated insurance industry to study the matter with an eye toward making it a perk for voters.

Carson got interested in politics by running campaigns for his wife Karen, who serves on the Knox County school board. He argues it is unconscionable for a democracy to have such poor voting participation and incentives ought to be developed to raise the percentage.