Corruption, bribery and bungs are generally a fringe phenomenon, according to the Swiss. One exception, however, is the business world, which has an image of being filled with untrustworthy wheelers and dealers.
A representative survey of 1,000 people by Transparency International in the SonntagsZeitung found that 23% considered business managers corrupt. While 13% thought religious leaders and 11% thought politicians were open to bribery, the figure was only 4% for police officers.
Corruption scandals involving Swiss companies and repeated fines paid by big banks had left their mark, according to experts.
“Mistrust has grown among the population, and justifiably,” Guido Palazzo, professor of corporate ethics at the University of Lausanne, told the SonntagsZeitung.
Michael Faske, head of fraud prevention at consultants EY Switzerland, agreed. He said spectacular cases like the investigation into FIFA, world football’s Zurich-based governing body, or the Panama papers, which revealed Switzerland was among the top five countries using financial middlemen to set up offshore companies with a Panama law firm, had made people in Switzerland more aware of the issue of corruption.
Palazzo said that while many companies had tightened controls and created departments to ensure the law was followed, at the same time pressure to increase profits and reduce costs had increased. This could force staff to turn to illegal methods, he believed.
“In most cases corruption isn’t the result of any character flaws on the part of employees but of aggressive targets set by the companies,” he said.