When you get down, deep down, into the world of global business, it doesn’t look like a Harvard Business School case. Consider Leung Tsor, the now-retired head of a recycling company that collected steel and aluminum in the United States, exported the materials to Hong Kong, and sent them on to factories in southern China. There the materials were sorted, graded, processed, and compressed into cubic shapes. The cubes were loaded into trucks, driven to the port in Hong Kong, and exported to customers in Japan. This complex process mostly went along smoothly, except, that is, for encounters with criminal gangs along the road to Hong Kong.
Sometimes … they would throw a dead body on the road at night. When the driver stopped after hitting the body, they would say that he had killed the person and would demand money for not reporting to the police.
Mr. Leung’s drivers had to carry large amounts of cash on each trip to deal with this expense. 1
Now consider a man who wants to be known only as Mr. H. After Vietnam opened up in the 1990s, he saw an investment opportunity focused on the expected increase in tourism as American veterans returned to view former battlegrounds. He opened five hamburger restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City. After profits disappeared because employees pilfered food and money, Mr. H. closed the restaurants and opened a beer distributorship. That folded after competitors hired handicapped veterans of Vietnam’s war with Cambodia to harass customers. His final effort involved building a hotel. While he negotiated with officials on the amounts of bribes needed for various licenses, inflation made the prices of building materials soar,