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U.S. Ambassador to the OECD Kornbluh's Remarks on Fighting Corruption with the OECD, April 2010

Speaker: Karen Kornbluh, Senior Fellow for Digital Policy
Published April 20, 2010

U.S. Ambassador to the OECD Karen Kornbluh spoke on U.S. actions and recommendations to fight corruption with the OECD, at the Forum for EU-U.S. Legal-Economic Affairs in Brussels, on April 20, 2010.

Excerpt from the speech:

Anti-corruption is a priority for U.S. efforts at the OECD.

  • U.S. efforts to encourage other countries to outlaw foreign bribery (as we had with our 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) ultimately achieved success at the OECD. The Anti-Bribery Convention was signed in 1997 and entered into force in February, 1999.
  • Today 38 countries, including Brazil, Argentina and South Africa, are signatories to the convention, binding themselves to criminalize foreign bribery and participating in its rigorous enforcement monitoring mechanism. It is our strongest supply-side instrument to combat foreign bribery.
  • Over the years, the U.S. has devoted substantial resources - from four separate agencies - to supporting the OECD's Working Group on Bribery. The U.S. has played an active role in the Convention's rigorous and transparent peer review process. We have also offered proposals to enhance enforcement efforts, and encouraged new major exporting countries that do not have foreign bribery laws to sign the Convention. In addition, the U.S. has led the charge on enforcement of its own law, as noted by Mr. Duross, with well over a hundred resolved cases of foreign bribery.
  • We are now extremely fortunate to have not only a Secretary of State committed to these issues but a new Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs, Jose Fernandez, equally invested, with a keen interest and background in these issues. We also have the General Counsel of the Commerce Department, Cam Kerry, who along with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke is committed to combating bribery especially in emerging markets. Of course we enjoy ongoing commitment from the Department of Justice where Attorney General Eric Holder started his career prosecuting public corruption and where Mark Mendelsohn - and now Chuck Duross - Deputy Chief of the Fraud Section, have been tireless in pursuing this agenda. And we have the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has a long involvement with the Convention and where Chair Mary Shapiro has made enforcement a focus.

Successes over the past year

The Recommendation:

  • The United States worked closely with a number of other countries to elaborate the recently adopted OECD Recommendation on Further Combating Bribery and the Draft Annex II - Good Practice Guidance on Internal Controls, Ethics, and Compliance. The Good Practice Guidance is a great new product that provides guidance for companies on how to prevent and detect bribery with anti-bribery codes, and how to strengthen compliance programs.
  • The Recommendation will greatly enhance Parties' enforcement of the Convention so that we can better fight bribery and corruption of foreign officials in international business, and uphold the rule of law around the globe.

Let me give you a few examples of why this Recommendation is so important:

  • It provides guidance to Parties on the basic offense, corporate liability, outreach and training, and enforcement.
  • It establishes agreement for regular meetings of prosecutors.
  • It identifies international cooperation as a critical area for further work by the Working Group on Bribery.
  • It strengthens cooperation with international organizations, by recommending that enforcement authorities accept referrals of bribery cases from such organizations.
  • It requires Parties, and encourages companies, to have easily accessible reporting channels, as well as whistle blowing provisions, to encourage bribery reporting and protect those who do the right thing and report.
  • The guidance is a tool for companies to prevent and detect bribery, and to assist them in complying with Parties' legislation. It provides companies with state of the art guidance on creating effective internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs, and measures for preventing and detecting the bribery of foreign public officials in their international business transactions.

Additional success over the past year

Now that the Parties to the Antibribery Convention have enhanced their political commitment, it is time to get even better results. And we are seeing these already.

We are extremely pleased that the UK has recently adopted historic anti-bribery legislation. This historic Act creates a legal framework under which bribery prosecutions can be taken forward. It sets out exactly what constitutes a bribe - both bribery payment and receipt - and creates the offense of "bribing a foreign official." The Act also creates a new offense of "corporate failure to prevent bribery," under which companies will have to show that they have adequate corporate training and guidelines in place to prevent bribery. We look forward to working with the UK as they assume a leadership role on anti-bribery.

We encourage other countries to reaffirm their commitment to implementing fully their obligations under the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. Leaders reaffirmed their intentions in the 2009 OECD Ministerial meeting, but we would like to see renewed emphasis on taking action, particularly in enforcing foreign bribery laws. We should work together to eradicate corruption in our own countries, and redouble our efforts to combat transnational corruption. The U.S. is prepared to work with others to achieve that goal.

In addition, we are pleased that theOECD Working Group on Bribery agreed in its new Recommendation to publish statistics concerning investigations and prosecutions of foreign bribery by signatories to the Convention. The United States has long pressed for this. We believe this will increase accountability, and it will publicly provide an official report of Signatory statistics. This builds on and complements the good work that NGOs - such as Transparency International - is already doing.

Third, we are pleased that there will now be regular prosecutorial meetings. We have long sought more prosecutorial involvement in the WGB, and will continue to do so, particularly because the involvement of prosecutors can address crossing-cutting issues that inhibit effective enforcement.

Fourth, we seek to gain the participation of emerging economies. Now more than ever, as emerging economies flex their economic muscle - particularly in developing countries - we must work to encourage them to be responsible international actors. It is important to note that the Convention has always been broader than OECD membership. Developed as well as developing countries were original parties to the Convention. Some also joined later. Currently, Russia has said it would also like to accede in connection with its accession process to the OECD. The Working Group on Bribery has reached out and included emerging economies in some of its deliberations. Ad-hoc members Indonesia and Russia participated as observers at the meeting in March. China has also been invited, as an ad hoc member.

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