SCANDALS: Lockheed's Defiance: A Right to Bribe?

Lockheed Aircraft Corp.—the company famous for its financial troubles, spectacular cost overruns and controversial Government loan guarantees—has now acquired another dubious distinction. Having admitted under prodding by the Securities and Exchange Commission that it has slipped at least $22 million under the table to foreign government officials and political organizations, the company issued a defiant statement that sounded almost like an assertion of the right to bribe.

A lengthening list of giant U.S. corporations, including Exxon, Gulf, Mobil, United Brands and Northrop, had previously admitted to making similar payoffs. The SEC's...