Report: 2016 Was Good Year for Anti-Corruption

TRACE International has published its latest review of global anti-corruption enforcement, touting a dramatic increase in enforcement last year, led by U.S. authorities.

Enforcement activity essentially doubled last year, according to the organization’s annual Global Enforcement Report. There were 255 investigations into bribery of foreign officials conducted by 29 countries as of Dec. 31, 2016. The United States was conducting 118 of those investigations, or 46 percent of the total. In a distant second place was Britain, running 29 investigations.

Enforcement activity by individual country trails off rapidly after that, but if you take all European countries as a whole, European is conducting 106 investigations. That’s not too shabby for a region that until recently didn’t take foreign bribery as a serious matter. Canada had five investigations—again, a respectable number for a country one-tenth the population of the United States, which only brought its anti-corruption enforcement up to modern standards this decade.

Many details within the GER are interesting, although they also fit the broader narrative anti-corruption compliance has seen for the last decade or so. For example, U.S. authorities investigate foreign bribery relating to China more than any other country; no surprise there. The sectors that see the most anti-corruption enforcement are mining and oil & gas (the so-called “extractive industries”), followed by engineering and construction.

The 2016 report does note a split in how countries enforce bribery inside and outside their borders. As noted above, when pursuing foreign bribery, the top targets are companies in the extractive industries. Domestically, however, the top sector is construction and engineering. That’s not surprising, given how much money countries spend on public works and how many local officials can be looking for kickbacks as they award contracts.

Alexandra Wrage, president of TRACE International, gave a shout-out to the stepped-up anti-corruption enforcement. “2016 was a record year for global anti-bribery enforcement,” she said. “The United States has been concluding enforcement actions at an unprecedented rate, other jurisdictions have been stepping up their prosecution rates as well, and new anti-corruption laws continue to be passed worldwide.”

To my thinking, Wrage also threw a subtle jab at current political trends, but you can judge for yourself: “Although there may be short-term fluctuations in these trends, we believe this represents the continued development of a global consensus that transnational bribery will not be tolerated.”

One can hope.

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