Twenty years ago, an organization was found to discourage and prosecute those who try to bribe foreign public officials. Known as, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD), its mission was to promote policies that would improve the social and economic well-being of people around the world. It is a forum, where countries and governments can come together to discuss, debate and share their experiences in solving common problems that their nation faces. One such problem is corruption and to that end, an Anti-Bribery Convention was organized and many nation-states signed on as members on December 17, 1997, and agreed to create legislation that would make bribing a foreign public official, illegal.
In this blog, the head of OECD’s Anti-Corruption Division, Patrick Moulette gives LexisNexis BIS his assessment about the Convention and how far its members have been able to implement anti-corruption legislation in their countries, the past twenty years.
Anti-foreign Bribery Legislation
When this organization was initially founded, the US was the only country that took bribery of public officials as a federal offense. They passed a legislation called Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 following which it became illegal to offer a bribe to a foreign public official, in 43 countries and states that have signed this convention.
Patrick Moulette believed that the anti-corruption bribery act had far-reaching effects in many member countries and states, “When countries improve their legislation for holding companies liable for foreign bribery, in fact, this also changes the law for domestic corruption and other financial crimes,”. He quoted Germany as an example, which has improved their enforcement record in the bribery of foreign public officials.
Though the convention has in effect brought in the legislation, he believed that more could be done to enforce the same. For one thing, he felt that there are not enough foreign bribery convictions around the world. Yet another worrying aspect is the fact that despite being a member of the convention, half the signatories do not have a single conviction for the bribery of foreign public officials. That and the fact that important members of G20, countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia etc. are not a part of this convention are areas of concern.
While the convention certainly needs more member states and rigorous enforcement, the legislation is evolving and is here to stay. The US Department of Justice recently made its FCPA Pilot Programme permanent. The Pilot Programme so long has been offering companies a reduced punishment for voluntary disclosure of compliance failure. Now that the Pilot Programme has been made permanent, it has introduced ‘additional benefits’ to companies that voluntarily disclose a breach of FCPA and cooperate with the investigation. This would allow them to make timely and appropriate remediation.
The announcement of the Pilot Programme becoming permanent was rather fortuitous and timely because it came right before the United Nations Annual Anti-Corruption Day on December 9 (year). This year, UN is focused on how corruption is one of the biggest impediments to achieving sustainable development goals and to that end a strong legislation for anti-bribery act becomes more vital than ever.