Business: Anatomy of a Corporate Scandal

How a little-known firm bribed its way to big-time problems

The companies that get into the headlines for foreign bribes are usually large multinationals with far-flung operations and sales in the billions. But right near the top of the list of the 527 U.S. firms that the Securities and Exchange Commission has cited for improper payments is International Systems & Controls, a Houston-based engineering outfit whose revenues were $276 million last year.

Hailed in the early 1970s on Wall Street as a wunderstock and in the business press as "a savvy marketer to the Third...

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