About Matthew Stephenson

Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Guest Post: Anticorruption Recommendations for the Ukraine Recovery Conference

Today’s guest post is from Gretta Fenner, Managing Director of the Basel Institute on Governance, and Andrii Borovyk, Executive Director of Transparency International Ukraine.

Today and tomorrow, delegates from around the world are gathering at the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano, Switzerland, and we hope that this conference will result in firm pledges by the international community to finance Ukraine’s post-war recovery and reconstruction. But as readers of this blog are well aware, huge infusions of money into countries recovering from war or natural disasters are a tempting target for kleptocrats, organized criminal groups, and other corrupt actors. And although Ukraine has steadily strengthened its anticorruption defenses since 2014, those defenses are not yet sufficiently robust to ensure reconstruction funds are spent with integrity.

For this reason, the Basel Institute on Governance and Transparency International Ukraine are advocating that the Ukraine Recovery Conference, and any future efforts to provide reconstruction funding for Ukraine, embrace a set of anticorruption measures to be integrated into the reconstruction process. The recommended measures include, among others:

  • prioritizing the leadership selection process and reforms of Ukraine’s anticorruption institutions, including courts;
  • using transparent procurement systems, such as Ukraine’s award-winning e-procurement system Prozorro, for reconstruction projects; and
  • strengthening asset recovery systems so that money stolen through corruption in the past can be used to help fuel reconstruction efforts.

You can see the full recommendations here in English (and here in Ukrainian ), and you can also download a shorter infographic that summarizes the key points.

New Podcast Episode, Featuring Michel Sapin and Valentina Lana

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available. In this episode, I interview Michel Sapin, who served in several senior positions in the French government (including as Minister of Finance from 1992-1993 and again from 2014-2017), and Valentina Lana, a French lawyer, compliance consultant, and lecturer at the Sciences Po Law Faculty in Paris. Our conversation focuses principally on the major legislative reform to French anticorruption law known as the Loi Sapin II (named for M. Sapin), which was adopted in December 2016 and went into effect in 2017. We discuss the changes in the political and economic environment that led to the passage of this law–which represented a dramatic shift in the French government’s approach to transnational bribery–and the impact that the law has had during the five-plus years that it has been in effect. My guests emphasize the positive impacts that the law has had in France, how it differs from the approach taken by the US and the UK, and how France and other countries should move forward on the anticorruption fight in the years to come. You can also find both this episode and an archive of prior episodes at the following locations: KickBack is a collaborative effort between GAB and the Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Network (ICRN). If you like it, please subscribe/follow, and tell all your friends! And if you have suggestions for voices you’d like to hear on the podcast, just send me a message and let me know.

Anticorruption Bibliography–June 2022 Update

An updated version of my anticorruption bibliography is available from my faculty webpage. A direct link to the pdf of the full bibliography is here, and a list of the new sources added in this update is here. Additionally, the bibliography is available in more user-friendly, searchable form at Global Integrity’s Anti-Corruption Corpus website. As always, I welcome suggestions for other sources that are not yet included, including any papers GAB readers have written.

Guest Post: Oversight of Beneficial Owners Can Strengthen Integrity in the Transition to Renewable Energy

Today’s guest post is from Alanna Markle, a Policy and Research Associate at Open Ownership, and Erica Westenberg, the Governance Programs Director at the Natural Resource Governance Institute.

The transition to cleaner, renewable energy sources is crucial to the health of the planet. Yet the renewables sector is likely to face political, social, and governance challenges—including risks of corruption and conflict of interest—similar to those that have been observed in extractive industries and other sectors. One of the tools that anticorruption advocates have emphasized as crucial across sectors—transparency regarding the true beneficial owners of private companies—may be highly important in addressing corruption and conflict of interest risks in the sustainable energy transition for several reasons: Continue reading

New Podcast Episode, Featuring Ray Fisman

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available. In this episode, I had the opportunity to interview Boston University Professor Ray Fisman, one of the world’s foremost economists working on corruption and related topics. In our conversation, Professor Fisman and I cover a range of topics related to his research, including the impact of corruption on economic development, the distinctions among different kinds of corruption (and their different effects), the human costs of corruption, and the hidden influence of political connections. Professor Fisman also discusses the conversations that inspired and shaped his research agenda, and the advice that he would offer up-and-coming scholars interested in exploring this set of topics. You can also find both this episode and an archive of prior episodes at the following locations: KickBack is a collaborative effort between GAB and the Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Network (ICRN). If you like it, please subscribe/follow, and tell all your friends! And if you have suggestions for voices you’d like to hear on the podcast, just send me a message and let me know.

Anticorruption Bibliography–May 2022 Update

An updated version of my anticorruption bibliography is available from my faculty webpage. A direct link to the pdf of the full bibliography is here, and a list of the new sources added in this update is here. Additionally, the bibliography is available in more user-friendly, searchable form at Global Integrity’s Anti-Corruption Corpus website. As always, I welcome suggestions for other sources that are not yet included, including any papers GAB readers have written.

New Podcast Episode, Featuring Frederik Obermaier

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available. In this week’s episode, we are pleased to welcome back to the podcast the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Frederik Obermaier of the German publication Süddeutsche Zeitung, who is also affiliated with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. We’ve been fortunate enough to have Mr. Obermaier on the podcast twice before, first in 2019 to discuss the Panama Papers, and then in 2020 to discuss the FinCEN Files. In this week’s episode, my ICRN colleague Christopher Starke talks with Mr. Obermaier about the work he and has collaborators have done on a set of stories based on another major leak, the so-called Suisse Secrets documents–files on thousands of customers of the Swiss Bank Credit Suisse, leaked by an anonymous source, which revealed that many Credit Suisse companies were extremely suspicious figures, including numerous corrupt politicians, as well as other organized crime figures and human rights abusers. The conversation highlights the systemic problems that continue to persist in the Swiss banking system, and more broadly. You can also find both this episode and an archive of prior episodes at the following locations: KickBack is a collaborative effort between GAB and the Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Network (ICRN). If you like it, please subscribe/follow, and tell all your friends! And if you have suggestions for voices you’d like to hear on the podcast, just send me a message and let me know.  

New Podcast, Featuring Gary Kalman

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available. As our regular listeners are aware, for the last couple of months we have featured a series of special episodes focusing on how corruption issues relate to Russia’s war on Ukraine. While the war goes on, and we hope to continue to feature experts who can focus on that topic, this week we return to, for lack of a better term, our “regularly scheduled programming,” with an interview with Gary Kalman, the Director of Transparency International’s United States office. Gary has appeared on our podcast twice before (in February 2020 and February 2021), so this interview, which was conducted this past February, can be seen as the continuation of what has become an annual tradition. As in our previous conversations, we focus on anticorruption developments in the United States. More specifically, we discuss ongoing rulemaking proceedings to implement the Corporate Transparency Act, the significance and potential impact of the Biden Administration’s Countering Corruption strategy document, the impact of the December 2021 Summit for Democracy on global anticorruption efforts, proposals for new US anticorruption legislation (such as the proposed ENABLERS Act and Foreign Extortion Prevention Act), and, going forward, what Gary believes are the most important challenges and agenda items for Transparency International’s US office.

You can also find both this episode and an archive of prior episodes at the following locations:

KickBack is a collaborative effort between GAB and the Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Network (ICRN). If you like it, please subscribe/follow, and tell all your friends! And if you have suggestions for voices you’d like to hear on the podcast, just send me a message and let me know.

Guest Post: How the Next Guatemalan AG Can Restore Hope in the Fight Against Impunity

Today’s guest post is from a Guatemalan official who, due to the sensitivity of his/her government position, prefers to remain anonymous:

In Guatemala, the Attorney General plays a central role in the efforts to counter corruption. Guatemala’s 1993 constitutional reforms put the AG in sole control over the Public Ministry, the nation’s principal law enforcement institution. These constitutional reforms also gave the AG substantial autonomy: The Public Ministry is ensured financial and administrative independence, and the AG has control over the Public Ministry’s personnel and policies. Although the President has the power to appoint the AG, the President must choose a candidate from a shortlist of six candidates chosen by a Nominating Commission composed of the President of the Supreme Court, the Deans of the Guatemalan Law Schools, and two representatives of the Guatemalan Bar Association; this process is designed to produce qualified candidates for the Office and reduce the President’s ability to select a loyalist crony. Additionally, the AG serves a fixed four-year term in office and cannot be removed before the expiration of that term unless a court has determined that the AG has engaged in criminal wrongdoing.

The AG’s power and independence can help in the fight against high-level corruption by powerful political figures, as was demonstrated by the Public Ministry’s investigation into graft allegations against then-President Otto Perez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti—an investigation which ultimately led to their resignation, prosecution, and incarceration (While this investigation was prompted and supported by the then-operative International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, known for its Spanish acronym CICIG, CICIG lacked unilateral prosecutorial authority, and the AG’s decision to pursue cases against the most powerful elected officials in the country was crucial.) Unfortunately, while the AG’s power and independence enables the AG to be an agent of positive change in the fight against impunity, those same factors mean that the AG can also be an obstacle to change. Guatemala has learned this the hard way under the current AG, Consuelo Porras.

When Porras took office in 2018, many people, both inside and outside Guatemala, believed that the country was reaching a turning point in its fight against corruption and impunity, and expectations were high. But her time at the Public Ministry has been a disappointment. Many regard her tenure as head of the Public Ministry as one the reasons why Guatemala’s anticorruption movement has faltered; overall, she seems to favor maintaining economic and political status quo, and a return to “business-as-usual.” Not only has she failed to provide bold leadership in the Public Ministry, but her policies have undermined the independence and effectiveness of Guatemalan law enforcement authorities. Worse still, there are allegations that she is personally involved in wrongdoing—and these allegations are credible enough that the U.S. government placed her on the “Undemocratic and Corrupt Actors” list and revoked her visa.

Guatemala’s recent experience raises important questions about the costs and benefits of giving one unelected official so much power over criminal law enforcement. But while it might be wise to examine the constitutional and statutory provisions regarding the AG’s powers at some point, right now Guatemala faces a much more pressing issue: the selection of a new AG. Porras’s tenure is coming to an end, and the selection process is underway; the President will appoint a new AG next month. Whoever the President selects will play a crucial role in determining whether Guatemala’s stalled anticorruption efforts can get back on track.

Whoever the new AG might be, there are three things that he or she can and should do to restore hope in Guatemala’s fight against corruption and impunity: Continue reading

Guest Announcement: Invitation to Join the Symposium on Supranational Responses to Corruption

Today’s guest post is from Alexandra Manea, Legal Counsel at the World Bank’s Office of Suspension and Debarment, and Jamieson Smith, the World Bank’s Chief Suspension and Debarment Officer.

Across the world, states play a fundamental role in shaping and enforcing the global anticorruption framework and agenda. But what happens when a state is unable to effectively counter corruption within its borders for various reasons? Are there supranational anticorruption mechanisms and remedies that could supplement the state’s response?

Experience shows that over the past two decades both public and private actors have developed supranational tools to tackle the “demand” and “supply” sides of corruption. A few examples include the sanctions systems of certain multilateral development banks, including the World Bank Group, which endeavor to protect development-intended funds from corruption by blacklisting corrupt contractors; the recently established European Public Prosecutor Office, designed to protect the European Union’s finances against corruption by prosecuting corrupt behaviors across EU member states; the exclusion mechanism of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund, the largest sovereign wealth fund with investments in over 9000 companies worldwide, that may divest from companies that engaged in corruption; and international corporations that have implemented robust integrity compliance programs across their affiliates at nationals levels.

To study these and other examples and to devise new opportunities for supranational remedies against corruption, a call for papers was launched last year, and was also published on this blog. We received hundreds of paper proposals from academics and practitioners from across numerous sectors and regions. The selected papers make up a rich agenda for our upcoming symposium, bringing together scholars and professionals from the private sector, international organizations, government, and civil society.  With this background, on behalf of the World Bank’s Office of Suspension and Debarment, the OECD’s Anti-Corruption Division, and the American Society of International Law’s Anti-Corruption Law Interest Group, we would like to invite all GAB followers to join the symposium on Supranational Responses to Corruption, on April 28-29, 2022. The event will be held in a hybrid format with about 30 presenters on site in Vienna, Austria, and hopefully with many of you attending online.

The main objective of the symposium is to study and reflect upon current and prospective anti-corruption efforts that transcend national boundaries or governments. The symposium will take stock of the current supranational anti-corruption mechanisms and standards, assess how to facilitate a multilateral understanding of these efforts, and discuss whether, to what extent, and how supranational anti-corruption institutions can move towards creating regional and/or transnational anti-corruption ecosystems that can effectively combat corruption irrespective of the actions, or lack thereof, of a specific state.

This symposium has been organized with the support of multiple organizations and professionals and we would like to thank them all for their valuable efforts in making this event possible. The International Anti-Corruption Academy, the World Economic Forum – Partnering Against Corruption Initiative, the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, and the OPEC Fund for International Development (event host in Vienna) provided important support.  Special thanks to GAB’s very own Matthew Stephenson, who generously helped us from the early stages through today, with sharpening the symposium’s focus, tailoring the agenda, and giving us the opportunity to invite GAB’s specialized audience to the symposium.

The full agenda is available here. You can register for April 28 here and for April 29 here. We hope to have many of you join the discussions!