OECD Bribery and Corruption Report Cards

The start of school is just around the corner, but summer is report card time for various groups focused on reducing bribery and corruption.

This post highlights two such report cards: Transparency International’s Annual Progress Report of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and The OECD Working Group on Bribery Annual Report.

Transparency International 2010 Progress Report of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention

ethics-report-cardsOn July 28th, Transprancy International (TI) (see here) released its sixth annual Progress Report on Enforcement of the OECD Convention.

“The 2010 report covers 36 of the 38 parties to the Convention, all except Iceland and Luxembourg. It covers enforcement data for the period ending 2009 unless otherwise stated and includes reports on recent case developments through June 2010. Like prior reports, this report is based on information provided by TI experts in each reporting country selected by TI national chapters.”

According to Appendix A of the report, the U.S. experts responding to the TI questionnaire were Lucinda Low (here) and Tom Best (here) of Steptoe & Johnson LLP.

In summary fashion, the report states:

“The increase in the number of countries with active enforcement from four to seven is a very positive development, because active enforcement is considered a substantial deterrent to foreign bribery. With the addition of Denmark, Italy and the United Kingdom, which previously were in the moderate category, there is now active enforcement in countries representing about 30 per cent of world exports, 8 per cent more than in the prior year.”

“The number of countries in the moderate category has changed from 11 to 9 countries, because three countries have moved up to the active category and one country, Argentina have moved up from the lowest category. The risk of prosecution in the nine countries with moderate enforcement – representing about 21 per cent of world exports – is considered an insufficient deterrent. Among this group are G8 members France and Japan.”

“The most disappointing finding is that there are still 20 countries – including G8 member Canada – with little or no enforcement, representing about 15 per cent of world exports. That number has shown little change in the last five years. This is deeply disturbing because companies in these countries will feel little or no constraint about foreign bribery, and many are not even aware of the OECD Convention. Governments in these countries have failed to meet the Convention’s commitment for collective action against foreign bribery.”

The report contains the following conclusions.

Current Levels of Enforcement are too Low to Enable the Convention to Succeed

“With active enforcement in only seven of the 38 parties to the Convention, the Convention’s goal of effectively curbing foreign bribery in international business transactions is still far from being achieved. The current situation is unstable because the Convention is predicated on the collective commitment of all the parties to end foreign bribery. Unless enforcement is sharply increased, existing support could well erode. Danger signals include efforts in some countries to limit the role of investigative magistrates, shorten statutes of limitations and extend immunities from prosecution. The risk of backsliding is particularly acute during a time of recession, when competition for limited orders is intense.”

Cause of Lagging Enforcement: Lack of Political Will

“The principal cause of lagging enforcement is lack of political will. This can take a passive form, such as failure to provide adequate funding and staffing for enforcement. It can also take an active form, through political obstruction of investigations and prosecutions. The lack of political will must be forcefully confronted not only by the Working Group on Bribery but also by the active involvement of the OECD Secretary-General, as well as high-level pressure on the laggards from governments committed to enforcement.”

Although the TI Report probably did not have the U.S. and U.K. in mind when making the above statement, many have questioned whether both the U.S. and U.K. governments lacked the political will to charge BAE, a large defense contractor to both governments, with bribery offenses. The U.S. enforcement action (see here) was not an FCPA enforcement action and the U.K. enforcement action (here) merely concerned a book keeping issue in Tanzania. And of course, TI’s statement about lack of political will was made before the Giffen Gaffe (seehere).

Positive developments noted in the TI Report include:

“During the last year prosecutors in the US, Germany and the UK announced a number of settlements of important foreign bribery cases in which the defendants agreed to pay fines amounting to many hundreds of millions of dollars. These settlements demonstrate the ability of prosecutors to resolve cases without interminable litigation. The settlement levels provide a sharp wake-up call to international business regarding the gravity of foreign bribery.”

In seeming recognition of how aggresive enforcement of bribery laws can become a cash cow (see here for more) for the enforcing government, the report then states: “[The settlements] should also make clear to laggard governments that investing in adequate enforcement can have substantial returns.”

Other snippets from the TI Report.

As to the U.K.’s delay of the Bribery Act (see here for more) the report states:

“… it is regrettable that the entry into force of the law has been delayed until April 2011. There should be no further delay. It is also important that the consultation on the publication of official government guidance on compliance will not result in weakening any provision of the law.”

As to the use of alternative resolution vehicles such as non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements – a common way corporate FCPA enforcement actions are resolved (see hereand here for more) and a model the U.K. SFO seeks to follow – the report contains this recommendation:

“The Working Group should undertake a study on the use of negotiated settlements to resolve foreign bribery cases. There are strong reasons for negotiated settlements, most importantly to avoid the high costs, long delays and unpredictable outcomes of litigation. However, there is concern that these settlements could be questionable deals between prosecutors and politically influential companies. Therefore, procedures should be adopted to make settlement terms public and subject to judicial approval. This should follow a public hearing where representatives of the country where the bribes were paid, competitors and other interested stakeholders such as public interest groups should be given an opportunity to present their views.”

The report also states as follows:

“TI considers that all settlements should be submitted to judicial review independent from the Prosecutor’s Office. This review should include a public hearing with representatives of the country where the bribe was paid, competitiors and civil society organisations before the settlement becomes final and published detailed conclusions.”

In a section of the report discussing current cases and trends, the report notes that some fines and penalties are based on the amount of the bribe while in other cases the fines and penalties are based on the amount of profit or gain from the transaction.

In apparent recognition that many FCPA fines and penalties (even eye-popping ones such as Siemens) still result in the company seemingly emerging from the prosecution with a net profit from the improper activity, the report states:

“TI considers that corporate fines should exceed the amount of profit from the wrongdoing.”

Further, the TI report questions whether the increase in enforcement and the penalties imposed are actually making any difference as it states: “[w]hile the amounts paid by companies are rising steadily in some jurisdictions, the question remains whether there is adequate deterrence.”

Continuing the dialogue on the question of “where should fines and penalties” go (see here and here for more) the report states:

“It would be desirable for the OECD Working Group on Bribery to conduct a study on corporate liability and penalties. TI considers that part of the fines paid or profits reimbursed should be made available for the benefit of the country that suffered from the offence.”

In addition to Transparency International, the OECD itself issued a summer report card.

OECD Working Group on Bribery Annual Report

On June 15th, the OECD Working Group on Bribery issued its annual report (see here).

As stated in the report, “the OECD has been at the forefront of international efforts to combat corruption in business, taking a multi-disciplinary approach, via its Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions, as well as through its work in the areas of taxation, development aid, and governance.”

The Anti-Bribery Convention (here) has been implemented by 38 countries (see here) and these countries comprise the OECD Working Group on Bribery.

Among recent achievements noted by OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría are:

“Israel—the Working Group’s newest member— [...] underwent a series of intense
evaluations and implemented significant anti-bribery legislative changes to the anti-bribery standards expected of candidates for membership of the OECD;”

and

“Chile, which recently became a member of the OECD, also passed legislation that holds Chilean companies liable for bribing foreign public officials when doing business abroad;”

Secretary General Gurria also noted that “in 2009, Russia officially asked to join the Anti-Bribery Convention as part of its OECD membership drive” and that the OECD is also deepening relations on anti-bribery issues with China, India, Indonesia and Thailand, and hopes to bring other countries on board.”

As the report notes, 2009 “marked the completion of ten years of monitoring Parties’ implementation and enforcement of the Anti-Bribery Convention.”

This is the first year that official data on enforcement efforts by Parties to the Anti-Bribery Convention is publicly available. The data (see here) is from “Decisions on Foreign Bribery Cases from 1999 to December 2009.”

According to the report, “the data has been compiled and published by the OECD Secretariat on the basis of statistics, data and information provided by the Parties to Convention in order to provide a realistic picture of the level of enforcement in the jurisdiction of each of the Parties. However, the responsibility for the provision and accuracy of information rests solely with the individual Parties.”

Further, in a seeming reference to U.S. enforcement of the FCPA and the frequency by which FCPA enforcement actions are resolved through non-prosecution agreements, the report notes that the data includes information “provided on a voluntary basis by certain countries concerning the number of foreign bribery cases that have been resolved through an agreement between the law enforcement authorities and the accused person or entity, with or without court approval.”

Interested in how many individuals and business entities have been criminally sanctioned by OECD signatory nations for bribery? Curious as to how many investigations are currently pending by signatory nations? Want to compare Hungary to Iceland or the U.S. to Germany?

It is all possible with OECD data.

About the Author

Mike Koehler

fcpa-professor-Mike-KoehlerAbout the Author Mike Koehler is an Assistant Professor at Southern Illinois University School of Law and is an expert FCPA columnist for Corporate Compliance Insights. Professor Koehler is a leading expert on the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws and initiatives and he founded and maintains the site FCPA Professor, an industry leading forum that has earned national and international recognition.