Support for the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act can come from unexpected places. Like Nigeria, for example. Here’s how:
Our friend and colleague there — a lawyer who also runs a due diligence service, talks about the challenges of operating a legitimate business. People from outside the country, he says, usually assume corruption is everywhere, and that makes it tough for him. As he wrote to us recently: In my email that went the way of Hemingway’s [missing] papers, I described to you how hard it had been . . . to become accepted as a credible service coming from Nigeria, and how a lady had written to me saying the service seemed to be “just another Nigerian business” set up to defraud unsuspecting members of the business community. Who wouldn’t be discouraged?
By any measure, his country is in bad shape. On the Failed States Index that we talked about in our prior post, Nigeria ranks 18th, between Lebanon and Sri Lanka (with 1st being the worst). And on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, it’s close to the bottom, tied with Nepal, Sao Tome and Principe, Togo and Viet Nam, all at 121st. With corruption, as we’ve said before, perceptions matter. Those doing business in countries known to suffer from graft expect to find it, so that’s all they see. Which is why honest Nigerians — who make up the vast majority of the country’s 140 million people — are always struggling against the notion that they’re part of the problem.
There aren’t a lot of people in Nigeria who know much about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. But among those who do — many of the lawyers and a growing number of business people, among others — the law is gaining fans. They think of the FCPA as a tool that can help clean up the place. And it’s working. Suppliers in Nigeria who want to grow internationally, for example, are learning that compliance makes good business sense. It’s a mini-revolution.
That’s why in Nigeria — where you’d expect the FCPA to be resented as a piece of legal imperialism — there’s a surprising level of support for it among people who believe in the rule of law.