11/15/2010

Whistleblowers : good or bad?

The airline Swiss escaped substantial fines for price-fixing activities between 2000 and 2006 because of having joined with Lufthansa in 2005. How ironic that they profit from this whistle-blowing by the Germans, yet the Swiss government cries foul when the German government profits from a Swiss whistle-blower!


This affair relates to the decision of the European Commission to fine 11 of the world's largest airlines for their part in conspiring to fix the price of cargo shipments. Although Swiss only became a Lufthansa subsidiary in 2005, well after the start of this price-fixing cartel, they escaped any punitive fine because of this deal.

Lufthansa, who blew the whistle on this conspiracy, benefited from immunity for this action; an immunity thus accorded also to Swiss.

Of course, all this is partly real-politik and partly "do as I say, not as I do". A more moral position would be to say that Swiss took part in the conspiracy when they were independent, and should thus voluntarily pay a fine. After all, the Swiss Federal Council has complained bitterly about whistle-blowing in the Swiss banking scene which has allowed various countries, starting with Germany, to identify and fine tax-evaders using Swiss banks.

It is also ironic that the various airlines, as well as conspiring to fix cargo fuel surcharges, also conspired to introduce a security surcharge. Given the current worries that air cargo is a weak link in the security chain that attempts to avoid terrorists getting bombs on board aircraft, such action might now receive a more favourable response.

Here in Geneva the statistics of the airport show that the amount of cargo handled each year has been about 30 million kilos for some years, but appears to have grown significantly in 2010. Whether this growth can continue might depend on what extra costs will be necessary to introduce many more security checks. After all, we cannot kid ourselves that attempts to smuggle bombs into cargo planes will only come from countries like Yemen and will never involve Switzerland.

11:42 Posted in Potpourri | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: european, commission, cartel, cargo, lufthansa, swiss | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

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