SCANDALS: THE BIG PAYOFF

The unending flow of disclosures of corporate bribes and illegal political contributions to officials in the U.S. and abroad has spread a darkening stain over the global reputation of American business. Throughout the revelations of the past 18 months, however, there was one minor consolation: reports of rampant payoffs by Exxon, Gulf, Mobil, Northrop, United Brands and other corporate giants had not directly implicated any major world leaders. Most under-the-table payments abroad had apparently gone to shadowy intermediaries, lower-or middle-level government officials, or...