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Graft fight going global, DOJ’s Cole says

Emphasizing the United States’ worldwide leadership in combating foreign bribery, James M. Cole, deputy attorney general at the Department of Justice, addressed the participants at the American Conference Institute’s FCPA conference on Tuesday in National Harbor, Maryland.

He noted the toll that bribery can take on nascent democracies, saying that graft can prop up autocratic rulers, stifle competition and economic development, prevent investments in infrastructure and better healthcare and other means for lifting people out of poverty.

And in the United States, the effects of overseas corruption flow back to us by contributing to economic crises that destabilize the financial system, opening borders for terrorists, raising the cost of goods, and costing Americans jobs by not being able to compete in a fair, global marketplace.

The DOJ is committed to fighting terrorism at home and abroad, he said. This requires many tools, involving the placement of DOJ attorneys in foreign nations to strengthen governments so they can resist the effects of corruption. Through the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, DOJ attorneys identify and return the assets stolen by corrupt foreign officials. And through the FCPA, companies and individuals are held accountable when they pay bribes to foreign government officials to obtain business.

Since the FCPA was passed in the United States almost 36 years ago, the world has begun to join our fight.

“From the 1999 OECD Anti-Bribery Convention to the 2005 UN Convention Against Corruption, from the Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption to the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, a common legal standard has emerged that rejects the notion that bribery in international business transactions is lawful, much less inevitable,” Cole said.  

He mentioned France and Germany as nations that, in the past 10 years, have changed their laws to address transnational corruption. There was the Siemens resolution in 2008, which was the product of U.S. cooperation with German authorities, and in the past 6 months, the DOJ announced the first coordinated action by French and U.S. law enforcement in the Total SA investigation.

Thanks to the hard work of professionals in the Criminal Division’s FCPA Unit as well as professionals in the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Commerce, SEC and IRS-Criminal Investigations, Cole said, the U.S. government has made FCPA cases a priority.

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Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of FCPA Blog. She can be reached here.

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