Global concerns about corruption are on the rise. This year alone, we have seen massive anti-corruption protests in Slovakia, South Korea, Romania and Russia.
This is not surprising as corruption underpins many of the world’s issues and it is against this background that the G20 leaders will meet on July 7-8 in Germany. The G20 has recognized corruption as a major factor undermining economic growth and development and has committed to bi-annual Anti-Corruption Action Plans since 2010.
All of the G20 goals such as strengthening the resilience of the global financial system, promoting strong and sustainable growth, addressing geopolitical conflicts, terrorism and migration and refugee flows, as well as hunger, ongoing climate change, and pandemics depend in part on addressing the issue of corruption.
Addressing corruption requires that governments, companies and individuals all take meaningful action to tackle corruption.
Since 1977, U.S. companies have worked hard to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). They have invested heavily on ethics and compliance programs and it has helped transform for the better the way businesses operate overseas. The United States has led efforts to secure important international political and legal commitments to combat transnational bribery such as the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (OECD Convention).
Strong implementation and enforcement of foreign bribery laws has also been included in the G20 commitments at least since 2010. However, progress on this front has been mixed with only four countries actively enforcing the OECD Convention and another six countries with a moderate enforcement record.
Additionally, many large economies such as China, India and Indonesia are not yet parties to the Convention.
2017 marks the 40-year anniversary of the FCPA and 20 years after signature of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. The best way to honor these milestones would be a concerted national and international effort to ensure that the FCPA and the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention are vigorously enforced and to bring all major economies, especially China, into the OECD Convention by the end of 2018.
All G20 countries should also participate in the peer review process, and take concrete steps to strengthen implementation and enforcement of their foreign bribery laws. The G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group should assess how Mutual Legal Assistance requests are made and responded to and release more data on the implementation of foreign bribery commitments (how many cases started, concluded, assets returned etc.).
The upcoming Leaders Summit presents an important opportunity to make progress on a longstanding G20 commitment. To this end, we at the Coalition of Integrity have written to President Trump, asking the Administration to call for consistent enforcement of foreign bribery laws by all G-20 countries.
The United States Council for International Business (USCIB), the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) have also signed the letter along with us.
To be fair, recent actions by the U.S. government have undermined the longstanding leadership position that the United States claimed on anti-corruption issues. On one hand, the Attorney General and senior Department of Justice officials have publicly proclaimed that the United States remains committed to the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws.
On the other hand, in a major setback to the fight against corruption, one of the first acts of Congress in 2017 was to overturn the Dodd-Frank Section 1504 rule which would have required oil, gas and mining companies to publicly disclose, on a project-by-project basis, payments made to governments for the commercial development of oil, natural gas or minerals.
There is still a way to right this ship and to ensure that the United States continues to advance a positive message at the G20 Summit which emphasizes the importance of all G20 countries acting to combat corruption. We call on the President to reinforce the U.S. commitment to anti-corruption including leading by example by continuing to strongly enforce the FCPA..
Shruti J. Shah is a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog. She’s the Vice President of Programs and Operations at Coalition for Integrity (formerly Transparency International-USA). She can be contacted here.