American business people have always been troubled by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It’s not that they want to pay bribes overseas. They don’t. But they also don’t want companies from other countries paying bribes to win work.
The U.S. government agrees. For more than three decades, the feds — led by the DOJ and the Commerce Department — have been working hard to spread the anti-corruption enforcement message. Despite their efforts, the level playing field remains a distant dream.
Just how distant was made clear last week. Trace International released its first Global Enforcement Report (GER). It’s a remarkable summary of “all known international anti-bribery enforcement actions since the FCPA’s passage some 33 years ago.” And although it shows the U.S. isn’t alone in the battle against graft, our few allies are a long, long way behind.
Of 515 outbound, or foreign, enforcement actions recorded by Trace, more than 75 percent are U.S. matters. The remaining 25 percent are the result of the combined efforts of 21 other nations. The United Kingdom ranks a distant second in the number of outbound bribery cases with 4.3 percent of the total.
Trace, with understatement, says a lot remains to be done. No one will disagree.
The GER won’t bring welcome news to those who hoped the level playing field was at hand. It’s not. But the GER is very welcome for another reason. For the first time, and with hearty thanks to Trace, the state of global antibribery enforcement is in plain sight. It may not be pretty, but just by being visible it’s an eloquent and high-decibel call for other countries to join the battle.
Download a copy of Trace International’s 2010 Global Enforcement Report here.