Cross-border bribery in the spotlight

4 December 2014, by Adam Foldes, Transparency International.

If someone is interested in how much effort the most developed countries of the world put into investigating and prosecuting companies that bribe abroad, then during the last few months there was plenty of news to be followed.

In October 2014 Transparency International (TI) published its annual Exporting Corruption Report. In this report TI looks at both tangible enforcement efforts by countries that are parties to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (currently there are 41 exporting countries among them, which account for about two thirds of world exports) and also prepares country reports assessing the latest developments in the legal systems and practice of these states. Unfortunately the results are not encouraging, more than a half of these countries show little or no enforcement and there are only four countries that are really active in sanctioning companies and their employees bribing abroad.

In November 2014 the G20 adopted a new Anti-Corruption Implementation Plan for 2015-2016, in which tackling bribery in international business transactions is one of their priorities. Among their commitments it is very promising that India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia will criminalise foreign bribery and several other countries, which have not yet done so will establish liability of legal persons.

In December 2014 the OECD published a ground-breaking report on foreign bribery. The OECD Foreign Bribery Report is unique as it builds on a collection of more than 400 settlements and judgements reached in 41 countries that are parties to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. Almost a half of these documents are not accessible to anyone but the OECD Working Group on Bribery with its mandate to review how the most developed countries implement the Convention and enforce actions against companies and employees that bribe abroad. The main findings of the report correspond with TI’s Exporting Corruption Report and provide an unparalleled insight into the anatomy of corrupt cross-border business deals.

In 2015 the OECD Working Group on Bribery will start its next phase of reviewing how the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention is implemented. Prior to that they have invited any interested civil society and private sector organisation to provide input into what exactly should be monitored during the coming four to five years in the context of the Convention.

No doubt foreign bribery remains an important issue of global corruption, but what is encouraging is that the above reports and commitments provide a solid basis for advocacy and for progress.