How global Anti-Corruption enforcement grew

Scholars argue changing global attitudes and U.S. legal culture have impacted white-collar prosecutions.

American corporate anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws form the basis for one of the largest and busiest fields of white-collar legal practice in the world.

Other countries have even developed their own enforcement mechanisms in response to the increasing importance of American anti-corruption laws. But prior to 2000, enforcement of U.S. anti-corruption laws rarely occurred. What prompted this dramatic and rapid change?

Scholars argue changing global attitudes and U.S. legal culture have impacted white-collar prosecutions

According to Duke Law professors Rachel Brewster and Samuel W. Buell, greater international cooperation combined with U.S. legal culture spurred this growth in anti-corruption enforcement. In a recent article, they argue that a better understanding of the effects of corruption prompted countries to support U.S. anti-corruption enforcement efforts and gave U.S. prosecutors access to evidence located abroad, which improved their ability to investigate and bring cases against both American and foreign corporations.
In addition, U.S. legal culture rewards prosecutors for handling anti-corruption cases, and a symbiotic relationship between prosecutors and corporate defense attorneys formed over time. Brewster and Buell suggest that, due to these factors, anti-corruption enforcement will continue to grow in importance.

The main U.S. anti-corruption law – the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) – always allowed prosecutors to target both U.S. and foreign companies that bribed foreign government officials. But, as Brewster and Buell note, since evidence of illegal bribes was often located overseas, U.S. prosecutors needed the help of local authorities to collect this evidence. And many governments refused to aid U.S. anti-corruption enforcement efforts.

Indeed, the prevailing theory held that bribery actually benefited developing countries by facilitating investment, and some countries even considered bribes a tax-deductible business expense.

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