Today is International Anti-Corruption Day, so it seems like a great moment to think about what we can all do to assist in the fight against global corruption, which makes products more expensive and less reliable for consumers, increases business costs, and undermines governance in resource-rich countries, exacting an estimated cost of one trillion dollars annually. As I’ll explain below, one thing we can do is contact Democratic Senators who are planning to propose legislation that could radically undermine U.S. anti-corruption efforts.
There have been lots of positive developments in the fight against global corruption, including:
- The Department of Justice has successfully concluded a growing number enforcement actions against major international businesses that have committed bribery on a massive scale, often in countries stricken by corruption like Nigeria and Haiti.
- Countries like Russia and China have passed strict laws against foreign bribery, increasing the probability that our competitors in those countries will be held to the same standards as those operating in the U.S.
- The U.K. has raised the bar on anti-corruption efforts, passing laws that criminalize all forms of bribery – offical and non-official – and holding companies strictly liable for the actions of their employees.
- International cooperation is on the increase, allowing for cross-border cooperation on an intrinsically cross-border issue.
On the other hand, however, there are worrying developments here in the U.S. For example:
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce us attacking the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the groundbreaking U.S. law that launched the global legislative fight against corruption. They claim – using deeply misleading and often false evidence – that the FCPA is being enforced unfairly against businesses, is over-costly, and disadvantages American companies. Analysis on the problems with the Chamber’s attacks has been carried out by Professors David Kennedy of Harvard and Dan Danielsen of Northeastern University, as well as Katie Shay, a former ERI legal intern at Georgetown.
- Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Chris Coons (DE) are planning to introduce amendments that would respond to the Chamber’s concerns and “clarify” the FCPA. Republicans in the House of Representatives are planning to go even further.
That last statement bears repeating and empahsis. While Republicans are listening to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the House, it’s Democrats who are leading the charge in the Senate to weaken the FCPA, in response to pressure from the big business interests. Whatever their proposal ends up being, it can only send mixed signals to our international partners on our commitment to fighting corruption, and risks opening the law to all sorts of unpredictable attacks.
This global day of action against corruption is a great opportunity to speak out against efforts to undermine U.S. commitment to fight international bribery. One great option – especially if you’re from Minnesota – is to call Senator Klobuchar to tell her you’re opposed to opening the FCPA for amendments.