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The Nobel Prize For Graft

Today the imprisoned Chinese dissident Lu Xiaobo will receive, in absentia, the Nobel Peace Prize. Predictably, China is boycotting.

Less predictably, and more noteworthy, is this: of the 65 countries invited to the ceremony (all countries with embassies in Norway), an astonishing 18 will side with China.  

What do these countries have in common? Many things, but one stands out: the list of boycotting countries is a veritable corruption hit parade.

With CPI rankings in parentheses, the list includes: Saudi Arabia (50), Tunisia (59), Cuba (69), China (78), Colombia (78), Serbia (78), Morocco (85), Egypt (98), Kazakhstan (105), Vietnam (116), the Philippines (134), Ukraine (134), Pakistan(143), Iran (146), Russia (154), Venezuela (164), Sudan (172), Iraq (175), Afghanistan (176).

Are we seeing a new fault line in geopolitics? Half the BRICs are on this list. Could the world be drifting into two blocs, one in which corruption is tolerated and one in which it is not? We shouldn’t be reductionistic, but the thought should give us pause.

As I said in this space recently, studies confirm that the present FCPA enforcement regime leads to a decrease in foreign direct investment in developing countries, including many on the list of Nobel-boycotting nations. Multiple reports from the U.S. Department of Commerce and academic economists confirm what’s happening.

The FDI void is then filled by companies from countries that are not subject to anti-corruption measures. These “black knights” move in and do business in precisely the ways the FCPA seeks to prevent, thus perpetuating the culture and practices of corruption.

We took our first big step to fight international graft in 1977 with enactment of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Here’s hoping the time has finally come for our policy-makers and the Congress to see the real impact of FCPA enforcement on some of the poorest people on the planet, and conceive of a prize-worthy remedy.

Andrew Brady Spalding is a member of the faculty at Chicago-Kent College of Law. As a Fulbright Scholar based in India, he conducted research on the impact of FCPA enforcement. His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and various international publications. 

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