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The 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week: Aug. 10

3. Pfizer's Foreign Investment

Enough already with the Big Pharma bribery fines, Uncle Sam! Tell the drugmakers to add a line item on their income statements titled "Foreign Payoffs" and leave them be.

Shares of Pfizer (PFE - Get Report) fell nearly 2% Tuesday, even while most other stocks finished to the upside, after the drug giant agreed to pay $60 million to settle a U.S. government probe of its use of illegal payments to win business overseas. Pfizer actually fessed up to paying off locals back in 2004, but it's taken the Justice Department this long to resolve the case.

What took the Feds so long to figure it all out?

Simple. What we call the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, most other nations call the cost of doing business.

OK, we're sorry. That may be a tad too simplistic. We are quite sure those countries would prefer that the spoils of business be merit-based, not a result of checkbook capitalism. And America certainly has its own patronage problems, also known as Congressional lobbying. Nevertheless, if you remember how Mexican officials shrugged off this year's Wal-Mart bribery scandal even as the New York Times had a conniption over it, then you understand our skepticism.

As for this case, Reuters reports that eight of the world's 10 biggest drugmakers are getting ready to book charges related to the government's crusade so it's hard even for us to get too sanctimonious about the whole darned thing. And by now you know that nobody does holier-than-thou better than us!

Last year, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Get Report) led the way, ponying up $70 million to settle charges that it paid kickbacks to win business in Greece, Iraq, Poland and Romania. Now Pfizer is getting busted for making improper payments to officials in Russia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Serbia, the Czech Republic, China and Italy.

You know what? Forget the line-item idea. With all those countries involved, let's just make bribery an Olympic event and be done with it.

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