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The Information Advantage

A less tricky option for expanding the pie for the extortionist government office is giving an entire office the information that it needs, and that you can provide at little or no cost to yourself. In government offices, honest, real and useful information can be more valuable than the standard bribe, especially in combination with the value of being a new trusted advisor and the new sense of self-esteem that you can give to them.14 Make real, honest and useful information your key to a non-bribe trust relationship with the government office.15


We must distinguish between licit and illicit information. Just as in the private sector, access to important information is asynchronous (that is, not everyone receives the same information in the same form, or at the same time). The disclosure of private confidential information may be sanctionable. However, much “private sector” information is not confidential, and all public information is may be shared without sanction. The asymmetry for non-confidential information stems from the overload of information and the ability of some people, like you, to timely put the appropriate information in a form that can be understood by the people who need it. That is where you can help the government office workers. This is the real and honest information referred to by Jennifer Hunt, and it is the information that you provide to an otherwise extortionate government office in exchange for a bribe demand of $0.00.16 The scope of this information is nearly boundless, and can range anywhere from skin care to which local banks (not offshore accounts) provide the best services at the lowest price, to office-wide trainings on the technical aspects of their jobs, to trainings and personal advice on the dangers and drawbacks of maintaining an extortionist work style in an increasingly anti-bribery world.

In most countries, some government offices are more extortionate than others, and some office seem to be free of extortionate behavior. However, creating a trust relationship with any office, whether it is completely transparent or totally corrupt, is a good thing to do. As I wrote at the beginning, creating a trust relationship with an entire government office, may seem like big magic, but it can be a simpler and less time-consuming task than taking on the major players one-by-one. And, as in the case of mesmerizing the entire audience, your chances improve if your reputation precedes your entrance onto the stage. It requires a lot of patience, some internalized knowledge of the socializing parts of Negotiation Theory; but, more than anything else, it calls upon you to treat others as you would wish to be treated in their situation.



About the Author:

Bruce Horowitz, bhorowitz@pazhorowitz.com is a founder and Managing Partner of the Quito, Ecuador law firm of PAZ HOROWITZ, Abogados. He has been studying Negotiations and Public Corruption issues since 1985, and has advised international corporate and individual clients on how to comply with Foreign Corrupt Practices legislation since 1989. Bruce has a post-graduate degree in Prevention of Public Corruption, and has taught at the law school and post-graduate university levels and given presentations and workshops for lawyers, paralegals, law students, clients and others on how to use Negotiation principles and techniques when facing extortionist government functionaries. PAZ HOROWITZ, Abogados is the Trace International representative in Ecuador www.traceinternational.org. Bruce was born and raised in Galion, Ohio, USA. He graduated from Brandeis University (BA 1970) and New York University Law School (JD 1976). Admitted in Alaska 1976 (ret. 1990), and Ohio 1985, not admitted in Ecuador. He is a former Co-chairperson and present Senior Advisor to the ABA International Section's Committee on U.S. Lawyers Working Abroad, Vice-chair of the Latin America and Caribbean Committee, and is an active member of the ABA International Section anti-corruption committee. You can reach Bruce at PAZ HOROWITZ Abogados, Whymper 1105 y Almagro, Quito, Ecuador. Tel. 593-2-222-2057, Fax 593-2-250-1902. Email: bhorowitz@pazhorowitz.com Web: www.pazhorowitz.com


Copyright © Bruce Horowitz, December 28, 2007





1 Cohen, Herb. ¡Negocie y Gane! . . . pero sin involucrarse tanto que pierda de vista su objetivo original, p. 63. Botogá, Grupo Editorial Norma (2004), trad. Beatriz Vejarano.


2 Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler. INFLUENCER: The Power to Change Anything (2007-2008)

3 In reference to the work of Dr. Alfredo Bandura on strategies that people use to convince themselves that they are good people despite the bad things that they do. INFLUENCER, p. 97.

4 Hunt, Jennifer. “Trust and Bribery: The Role of the Quid Pro Quo and the link with Crime”, University of Montreal, Montreal, Québec, Canada, (Draft, October 2003. www.scholar.google.com using search elements,“Jennifer Hunt” and “corruption”). Hunt describes these extended family and other friendship, “compadre” and other types of “trust” relationships between bureaucracies and the private sector.

5 I cannot guarantee that this kind of non-extortion network exists in all societies, and it may be less expansive in some countries or urban areas of some countries. A comparative study of the subject could be worth a graduate student’s effort.

6 Of course, at the other end of the obligations scale, it is this expandability and permeability of the bureaucratic relationship system in lesser-developed countries that create buffers to change, since change impinges on the interests of minor players, and these trust relationships permit these minor players to slow or stop such changes.

7 See, USAID, USAID Handbook for Fighting Corruption, found at the Anti-Corruption Gateway for Europe and Eurasia, “Anti-Corruption Strategies”, www.nobribes.org

8 MORENO OCAMPO, LUIS. EN DEFENSA PROPIA, Editorial Sudamericana, Buenos Aires, 1993, p. 174, “In fact, it is not easy to measure the way that corruption . . . discourages honest functionaries ­–who exist in any organization. . . .” His bare statement is supported by the personal experience of many people in the fields of anti-corruption and of “positive deviance”, and even in the statistical results of Peruvian household censuses (Hunt, Jennifer. “Trust and Bribery: The Role of the Quid Pro Quo and the link with Crime”, University of Montreal, Montreal, Québec, Canada, (Draft October 2003. www.scholar.google.com using search elements, “Jennifer Hunt” and “Corruption”); Jennifer Hunt and Sonia Laszlo. “Bribery: Who Pays, Who Refuses, What are the Payoffs?” McGill University, Toronto. 31 January 2005)



9 There are several good manuals and guides on what to look for in a trustworthy intermediary agent. One good place to start is at the TRACE International website, www.traceinternational.org. TRACE’s Executive Director, Alexandra Addison Wrage, recently published BRIBERY AND EXTORTION: Undermining Business, Governments, and Security (Praeger Security International, 2007), which will quickly bring you up to speed on the commercial and personal issues surrounding government bribery. A good in-depth review of the compliance requirements stemming from U.S., foreign and international anti.bribery laws, conventions and agreements, see Stuart H. Deming’s THE FOREIGN CORRUPT PRACTICES ACT AND THE NEW INTERNATATIONAL NORMS, American Bar Association (2005)

10 As William Ury writes in THE POWER OF A POSITIVE NO (Latin American Edition, Editorial Norma S.A., 2007), a “positive No works because it implies standing on your own two feet without stepping on the other person.” “The key to a positive No is respect.” (As retranslated into English from the Spanish translation.)

11 Feigning the ignorance as to the meaning of an obvious bribe-demand gesture or phrase by a customs or immigration office, may work when you will never see that functionary again, but up-front honesty and clarity are of greater importance when you may need to work with the same functionary or that person’s office mate in the future, because it establishes you in a trust relationship.

12 Ury, EL PODER DE UN NO POSITIVO.

13 For examples, see Wrage, Chapter 3.

14 Hunt, p. 5.

15 “. . . an agreement does not necessarily imply a monetary amount or a point, but rather a spectrum of tolerable terms. In this search, there arise non-accounting factors, subjective benefits that carry for each party a value according to their own appreciations. What we call a value is that which can improve, satisfy or create potential for the interests of the other party. These yield types of utility, deeds, gestures or things that hold value for their non-objective significance.” Altshul, Carlos. Dinámica de la Negociación Estratégica. Ediciones Granica S.A., Buenos Aires, 1999, ed. ampliada 2003. p. 68.

16 In one sense, the extortion situation is similar to the hostage negotiation situation, when the extortionist offers to liberate the hostage (in this case, the public service, good or contract to which you are entitled in exchange for something which you must refuse to provide from the beginning of the negotiation). That is why it is important to remember the words of Carlos Altschul, “When you hold information, you stop being a hostage”. Altschul, p. 37.

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January 2008