In a previous post on this blog, Sam raised the possibility that under the logic of World Duty Free v. Kenya, investment treaty arbitration rules might actually encourage state officials to engage in corruption, because corrupt acts by an investor (even when the state is also implicated) can be used to escape state liability in investment arbitration. Even if Sam’s point is true, however, it is important to acknowledge that investment arbitration can be a check on corruption in many instances. In fact, as the Yukos v. Russian Federation award issued against the Russian government this past summer demonstrates, Sam may be pointing out the exception, not the rule. Indeed, this $50 billion award – the largest international arbitration award in history – demonstrates the power of investment arbitration to bring corruption to light and act as an outside check on corrupt states. Continue reading
Independent anticorruption agencies (ACAs) have become a vital component for many countries in combating corruption. Generally, these ACAs function like independent police or prosecutors, taking on one or both of those roles in settings where the ordinary law enforcement apparatus cannot be relied on to investigate, arrest, and prosecute corrupt officials. In addition to these prosecutorial responsibilities, ACAs sometimes oversee asset disclosures, and may also perform a public education function. But for the most part, ACAs do not play a direct role in selecting or vetting senior political officials. Should they?
This question is not merely hypothetical: Indonesia recently elected as its new president Joko Widodo, a reform-minded candidate who promised “zero-tolerance towards corruption” during his campaign (see a previous post discussing his election here). Last month, President-Elect Widodo took the unprecedented step of submitting his list of proposed nominees for cabinet positions to Indonesia’s powerful Corruption Eradication Commission (Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi or “KPK”) for evaluation–and approval–before the list of nominees was finally made public. The KPK rejected eight of his submissions, with the result that President Widodo delayed the announcement of his cabinet compositions until he replaced these eight candidates with other nominees approved by KPK. Four days later, Widodo announced his cabinet composition, which presumably did not include the eight individuals to whom the KPK objected.
While the decision to give the KPK a de facto veto over cabinet appointments is in some ways an encouraging development–one that many Indonesians might appreciate as brave, progressive move, which enlarges the power of the popular KPK–it is troubling in certain respects, and should prompt more careful scrutiny and regulation. Continue reading
As many readers of this blog are likely aware, Transparency International–the leading worldwide anticorruption NGO–has made the corporate secrecy problem a centerpiece of its “Unmask the Corrupt” campaign. TI is focusing in particular on the problem of shell companies whose true (or “beneficial”) owners are unknown, and which can be used by corrupt officials and businesspeople to shelter and launder stolen public funds. The TI Secretariat, along with several of TI’s national chapters, have been pushing for action at both the national and international level, especially for reforms that would make transparent the beneficial owners of these companies. I wanted to use this post as an opportunity to call attention to two of TI’s recent efforts in this area, which might be of interest to GAB readers:
- First, the TI Secretariat wants to use the G20 leaders’ summit this weekend in Brisbane, Australia as an opportunity to raise awareness of the issue and to put pressure on the G20 leaders to commit to take action on this issue. To this end, TI organized an open letter, signed by a number of prominent civil society activists and other public figures (including John Githongo, Desmond Tutu, and Richard Goldstone), calling on the G20 leaders to outlaw secret company ownership and mandate public registries of the true beneficial owners of all legal entities.
- Second, as I noted last month, the US government is currently in the midst of a rulemaking process to strengthen due diligence and disclosure requirements on beneficial ownership. TI-USA submitted a set of supportive but critical comments on the rule, urging the US Treasury Department to expand the definition of “beneficial owner” to include individuals who control the entities through means other than a formal management position, to apply the new rules apply to existing accounts as well as new accounts, and to require financial institutions not only to verify the identity of the (alleged) beneficial owner, but to independently verify that the person listed as the beneficial owner is in fact the true beneficial owner.
TI’s efforts in this direction are most welcome, and I hope they have some impact on the G20 summit and the development of new rules in the US (and elsewhere). I’m happy to take this this opportunity to publicize TI’s efforts, and I hope some of our readers out there might be able to contribute to the push that TI and other organizations are making on this issue.
One year ago, Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) struck the Philippines, claiming over 6,000 lives. In the aftermath, numerous reports emerged regarding the failure of the Philippine government to properly manage relief efforts and get foreign aid to victims. This past September, the Philippine Commission on Audit (COA) released its comprehensive–and damning–Report on the Audit of Typhoon Yolanda Relief Operations. According to the report, of the $15 million available in the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) quick response fund, and the $1 million in donations received by the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), not one cent was spent on the basic subsistence needs of typhoon victims, in clear violation of the statutory mandate of Republic Act 10352.
Elizabeth’s recent post highlighted some of the challenges involved in fighting corruption in a conflict zone. While a natural disaster like Typhoon Haiyan poses similar issues, the challenges–and the opportunities for effective response–differ in some important respects. On the one hand, in a natural disaster–as in a conflict situation–the chaos and breakdown of oversight, coupled with the dependence of victims on the resources, coordination, and capabilities of those in a position to provide relief creates a power imbalance that increases opportunities for corrupt actors. At the same time, although any individual natural disaster is unpredictable, the fact that such disasters will periodically occur is predictable (at least in certain disaster-prone areas), and this creates opportunities–which perhaps don’t exist to the same degree in the context of armed conflicts–to plan ahead: to take steps that can redress the potential power imbalance before the crisis occurs. Continue reading
Last week, the United Kingdom’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) released its report on the UK Department for International Development (DFID)’s efforts to fight corruption in poor countries. The report, which got a fair amount of press attention (see here, here, here, and here), was harshly critical of DFID. But the report itself has already been criticized in return, by a wide range of anticorruption experts. Heather Marquette, the director of the Developmental Leadership Program at the University of Birmingham, described the ICAI report as “simplistic,” “a mess,” and a “wasted opportunity” that “fails to understand the nature of corruption.” Mick Moore, head of the International Centre for Tax and Development at the Institute for Development Studies, said that the report was “disingenuous” and “oversimplif[ied],” and that it “threatens to push British aid policy in the wrong direction.” Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, called the report a “wasted opportunity” that “has failed to significantly add to our evidence base,” largely because “ICAI’s attitude to what counts as evidence is so inconsistent between what it asks of DFID and what it accepts for itself.”
Harsh words. Are they justified? After reading the ICAI report myself, I regret to say the answer is yes. Though there are some useful observations scattered throughout the ICAI report, taken as a whole the report is just dreadful. Despite a few helpful suggestions on relatively minor points, neither the report’s condemnatory tone nor its primary recommendations are backed up with adequate evidence or cogent reasoning. It is, in most respects, a cautionary example of how incompetent execution can undermine a worthwhile project. Continue reading
David took Alexander Lebedev and Vladislav Inozemtsev to task in a recent post for a scheme they proposed in an on-line issue of Foreign Affairs to combat corruption. Ignoring the several international anticorruption conventions now in place and the slow but steady improvements these agreements have produced, the authors called for a brand new convention that would grant extraordinary powers to a supranational team of investigators, prosecutors, and judges to arrest, prosecute, and try those suspected of corruption no matter where they are. The harebrained idea is so full of holes and so unrealistic that David labeled it “absurd,” a conclusion with which any serious analyst would surely agree.
In closing David urged the anticorruption community to stop advancing unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky proposals that waste readers’ time and scarce space in learned journals in favor of more realistic, if less catchy, ones. In that spirit I offer the following dull, boring, humdrum, unimaginative, prosaic proposal — one not likely to capture the uninformed reader’s imagination or gain space in Foreign Affairs or another prestigious policy journal. On the other hand, my proposal will help crackdown on corruption, particularly corruption by powerful officials in developing states. It is simple. Developed nations should copy a program the British government began in 2006. Continue reading
A couple weeks back, Rick’s post on the US DOJ Kleptocracy Initiative’s settlement in the Obiang case prompted an interesting exchange among several contributors to this blog (including me) about the use of civil forfeiture proceedings to seize assets–suspected of being the proceeds of corruption or other illicit activity–without a prior criminal conviction. I recently had the opportunity to read the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR)’s excellent new report, Few and Far, about recent developments in the asset recover field, and this report prompted me to reflect further on this issue. The Few and Far report is very positive about civil forfeiture, and recommends substantially expanding its use. To quote the report:
Both developed and developing countries need to ensure that they have a broad range of mechanisms in place, such as the ability[y] … to confiscate [assets] in the absence of a conviction. (p. 3)
Confiscation in the absence of a conviction (NCB confiscation) continues to be an effective mechanism for freezing and confiscating assets…. [H]owever, most OECD members have yet to adopt laws permitting the confiscation of assets in the absence of a conviction. (p. 43)
I want to use the Few and Far report to raise again an issue that I noted in response to Rick’s post on the Obiang case: I’m deeply conflicted about the use of non-conviction-based (NCB) civil forfeiture proceedings, and I think that perhaps the anticorruption community should engage in a bit more reflection about this mechanism, and how to ensure it’s not abused. Continue reading
Allegations of corruption have dogged FIFA for years–particularly under the leadership of Sepp Blatter, who has been FIFA President since 1998–but with little impact. The buildup of controversy surrounding the bidding contest for the 2022 World Cup, however, may prove the tipping point in Blatter’s reign. Early last month, Michael Garcia, FIFA’s independent investigator and a former U.S. Attorney, submitted to FIFA’s Ethics Committee a 350-page report on corruption in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests. The report purportedly details millions of dollars in bribes paid to FIFA executives in order for Qatar to host the 2022 tournament. A few weeks later, the chairmen of the Ethics Committee released a statement affirming that, in accordance with FIFA’s Code of Ethics, if Garcia initiates proceedings against specific individuals based on his report, only the final decisions (not the report itself or any other preliminary materials) will be made public.
The next day Garcia went rogue. He called publicly for the report’s widespread release (with appropriate redactions as necessary to protect sources). His call was quickly echoed by several members of FIFA’s Executive Committee, including Sunil Gulati, the head of US Soccer, Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, and CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb. In addition to the revolt that may be brewing within, external pressures are mounting on FIFA as well, with calls for the release of Garcia’s report coming from Michel Platini, head of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), as well as U.S. Senator Bob Casey and the international NGO Transparency International. And in Switzerland, where FIFA is based, last April the Federal Council–apparently in direct response to concerns about Swiss-based international sports federations that have been “discredited repeatedly by corruption scandals”–reversed its longstanding position and declared that “private corruption will be prosecuted automatically, even where it does not lead to competitive distortions.”
All this activity is honing in on one specific question, which will likely be definitively answered at the June 2015 FIFA Congress: Will Qatar keep the 2022 World Cup? Continue reading