A Decade of Corruption Ends with Hartz
In the news: Corporate Germany was in distress last week when news of a former Volkswagen boss was convicted of bribery. Peter Hartz reported from Frankfurt wearing a tailor-made dark blue suit, light blue shirt and a matching tie, and was driven in a black Volkswagen Phaeton limousine which was polished to perfection. Everything about the man exemplifies his status as the man who set Germany on the road to recovery.
Peter Hartz, former personnel director at Volkswagen was once again in the limelight but this time not to the applause of the German government and business leaders but rather to the shouts of an angry crowd present as he made his way across the cobbled yard to the courthouse in Brunswick. He was there to confess to bribery and corruptions which he is being accused of on a grand scale.
It should be noted that the former personnel director of Volkswagen was once a confidant of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder so you can just imagine the influence that he has on the German government. The question now is: will such connection help Peter Hartz surpass the bribery charges he is facing right now?
At the courthouse Harts stood in front of the 9,000 angry shareholders and apologized for another corruption scandal which is to date, the worst in German corporate history.
The Germans who were watching the live television coverage of the trial was enthralled by Hartz’s court appearance together with those from Munich of the humbled Siemens board members, it’s like watching an awesome and tragic Wagnerian touch of the Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods). The corruption scandal was not only devastating on the part of Hartz whose reputation has been trumped to the ground but similarly demoralizing to the German people at large.
The corruption scandal became a moment wherein Germans began to question themselves who are the other guilty parties? How deeply embedded is institutionalized corruption in their country? Who protects these corrupt personalities since they could get away with it for so long? After decades of pride of their postwar “economic miracle”, it was only last week that the Germans lost faith in their business leaders and to some extent has become doubtful of the economic miracle that their country has achieved. And all this happen in just a week.
According to Perter von Blomberg of Transparency International - a group that fights corruption around the world, “In the past, cases of corruption in a company were more frequently covered up or played down. Nowadays there is more public awareness and people are more sensitive to the issue.”
Some of the angry protesters at the Hartz’s trial demanded that he be jailed. They were carrying placards with angry messages on them and most of them insisted that Hartz be imprisoned. The cause of the grave public rage on Hartz is brought by the fact that he was the architect of employment-law reforms which produced severe cuts in state benefits.
The public hostile response over Hartz corruption affair has led the members of the German government to consider removing his name from the statute books. A new title was given to the Hartz Labor Reforms. The Hartz case was like a nightmare to the German people. Never did they ever think that the mighty German industrial machine, famous for hitting record-breaking targets for exports year after year would commit the biggest plunder of all time.
Shocking revelations were also exposed during the trial like for instance, who would have thought that the late and unmourned Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha - an unlikely figure to intrude into German domestic politics, was also alleged to have received millions of dollars in backhanders from Siemens? More than seven Siemens executives were arrested on the allegations that the company set up a slush fund to pay bribes just to win billions of euros worth of international contracts. Likewise, a network of front companies and secret bank accounts were discovered by the Munich prosecutors.
In the case of Volkswagen and Hartz the investigation has uncovered the extraordinarily questionable life of German bosses. Furthermore, there are also evidences showing Hartz together with his union chums, along with some prominent politicians and fellow executives from the Volkswagen Empire has amassed millions of euros signed off for the interest of the company and not all of the deals are legitimate. And the amazing thing about all this is that it has been going on for decades already.
The said “for the interest of the company” deals include group visits to brothels in Germany, Spain, and South America. Add to that the money wasted on expensive gifts for girlfriends, VIP treatment at Czech nightclubs and discos plus, don’t forget the luxurious trips around the world. While this fortunate few are having the best times of their lives, the hard-pressed Germans were enduring a long period of economic stagnation and cuts in household spending. So it is not surprising that the German public is angry at both Volkswagen and Siemens executives who with their millions of euros salaries were greasing palms as if it was part of standard business procedures.
The Company that is Volkswagen
Volkswagen is an icon of the 20th century. As a fact only few car manufacturers have been able to produce as many legendary cars as Volkswagen. The Beetle which is considered a trademark of Volkswagen is considered the best-selling car of all time even its Volkswagen Beetle parts is selling quite well due to its remarkable quality.
Other Volkswagen vehicles that have earned great recognitions are the Volkswagen bus which is a symbol of a generation and the golf which is viewed by many as a modern masterpiece. These are just some of the automobiles that have made impact on the cultural and personal lives of millions.
But from among the vehicles manufactured by Volkswagen, the Beetle is considered to be the most prominent. This vehicle is basically Volkswagen’s Type 1and also known in other names such as Fusca, Coccinelle or Cox, Vocho (Spanish), Bug, Volky or Käfer (German), Escarabajo (beetle in Spanish). The Beetle is an economy car built by the German automaker Volkswagen from 1938 until 2003. The names Bug and Beetle were easily adopted by the public but it was not until August of 1967 that VW has officially used the name Beetle in marketing their products.
The Beetle car was the benchmark for both generations of American compact cars such as the Chevrolet Corvair and subcompact cars such as the Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Vega. The Beetle was also awarded fourth place in the international poll for the world’s most influential car of the twentieth century. Other winners include Ford Model T, the Mini and the Citroën DS.
About the Author: Growing up with three brothers, Natalie Anderson became exposed early to the world of automobiles. This 29-year-old account manager now dreams of having her very own top-of-the-line vintage car.