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Harry Cassin
Publisher and Editor

Andy Spalding
Senior Editor

Jessica Tillipman
Senior Editor

Bill Steinman
Senior Editor

Richard L. Cassin
Editor at Large

Elizabeth K. Spahn
Editor Emeritus

Cody Worthington
Contributing Editor

Julie DiMauro
Contributing Editor

Thomas Fox
Contributing Editor

Marc Alain Bohn
Contributing Editor

Bill Waite
Contributing Editor

Shruti J. Shah
Contributing Editor

Russell A. Stamets
Contributing Editor

Richard Bistrong
Contributing Editor

Eric Carlson
Contributing Editor

Separating corruption from culture with the CROOK Act

The cornerstone of any effective anti-corruption movement is the widespread conviction that systemic corruption is not inevitable – that it can change. That we can change it. That we actually don’t have to live with it. The now-pending CROOK Act can help.

It was once fashionable to say that in much of the world, corruption is “cultural.” If by “cultural” we mean it is taught as a good and appropriate thing – like certain kinds of dress, or food, or religious beliefs and rituals – then this is plainly untrue. No culture teaches that a suitcase full of cash traded under the table for an illegal benefit is a good thing, one that we would not change even if we could, a practice consistent with our standards of good government.

But a great many peoples still resign themselves to corruption’s inevitability. Outsiders observe routine corruption, blended with an apparent attitude of indifference, and wrongly infer that corruption is a cultural norm. Look more carefully. You’ll typically see a people who would end corruption tomorrow . . . if they believed they could. They can imagine a world without corruption; they just can’t imagine living there. To them, a world free from systemic corruption is a “utopia” – a word that means both “perfect place” and “no place.”

This is precisely the mentality that must change. If we are to reduce corruption, we must put pressure on leaders. To pressure leaders, people must believe that systemic corruption is among those things we should not and need not tolerate. But getting a people to this point often requires education – not on the harms of corruption, which they know too well, but on the methods for reducing it. We need programs, and they won’t come from corrupt leaders.

Here’s where the CROOK Act can make a difference. This bill, now pending in the U.S. Congress, would use 5 percent of FCPA enforcement proceeds to fund overseas anti-corruption initiatives. The State Department and an Interagency Task Force would administer the fund. Money could support governmental or non-governmental organizations and would go to countries that are well-positioned to effectuate meaningful reform.

We could use these funds to change perceptions, to spread knowledge. Who would benefit from such programs? Everybody – citizens, companies, and governments, both here and abroad. Everybody, that is, except the crooks. That’s the point.

We’ve previously written about how the CROOK Act can help counter imbalances in supply-side enforcement, and can more directly address the plight of bribery’s victims. It can also help do something even more fundamental: it can change how we think, how we see the world, and how we understand our role in it.

At this particular moment in history, that would seem a pretty good investment.

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  1. Andy, it would be great if the State Dept and Interagency Task Force would publish or at least explain the internal controls and due diligence procedures they will put in place to make sure the 5% of the funds go to their intended recipient and for the intended purpose. Do you know if these are being written? It would be great to see a follow-up article on that topic.

  2. Dear Mr. Spalding,
    It is a nice coverage for those nationals whom you relieve from the burden of being labelled as ‘Born Corrupt’. But I would add that both in developed and underdeveloped countries have public and enterprise officials can not live and do well in their careers if they are uncorrupted. Those who make compromises have discovered that they own the world and its heart. It seems like modern theme of bureaucracy and management is to make your promoters happy. Believe it or not, the roots are will be boring deeper thru the sides of the globe.

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