When in China, Do as the Chinese Do: JPM Bribery Charges

Whether bribery is correct or ethical is a realm I really do not intend to enter with this short post. However, I do want to share a rather simple and yet complex thought that has enraptured me.

JP Morgan has made headlines in the media world recently due to allegations that it has unfairly used its hiring policy as a form of bribery in China. The charges state that the company has hired children of high-ranked government officials and corporate leaders in return for profitable deals and contracts.

If convicted by the SEC, JP Morgan will be faced with yet another smudge on their name after the “London Whale” debauchery. However, what if bribery was rather a more commonly accepted form of payment and viewed in a different light?

The degree of how much bribery can be accepted definitely varies amongst countries. In many schools in Asia, teachers receive general payments by parents before the start of the school year so that the instructors can better “take care of” the students. This widely twisted practice is considered dirty, but commonly acknowledged by the general public.

What if JP Morgan was doing exactly the same thing? It has indeed created unfairness in a competitive system of trying to outrun and outsmart other major banks in the lucrative Chinese market by practicing a hiring policy that even may be viewed as commonplace in China or other countries. It may just have not been smart enough to not get caught compared to other banks.

On a more personal level, I feel like we can find the exact same unfairness in networking/connections. We emphasize the importance of networking and creating connections in the corporate world whether it may be during recruiting or during the actual professional life. We hope that one day, one of these connections can be leveraged to generate a return that other competitors cannot achieve. For example, in a pool of ten applicants for a single spot at a major BB, if a connection ends up pulling you in for the position when someone else may be more talented, unfairness in the system has been already created. In return for the favor provided by the connection, you are now in debt to that person, and this reciprocal relationship will continue as long as one party does not fail the other.

I completely understand that my argument has flaws and points that must be recognized, but I just thought that considering there is no universal system of bribery standards, to what extent will JPM face public shame due to its actions that may very well be practiced by other firms right at this present moment?

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