ASIL/World Bank/OECD Symposium on Supranational Responses to Corruption–Call for Papers

The Anti-Corruption Law Interest Group of the American Society of International Law (ACLIG), the World Bank’s Office of Suspension and Debarment (OSD), and the OECD’s Anti-Corruption Division are organizing a symposium on “Supranational Responses to Corruption,” tentatively planned to be held in person in Vienna, Austria on November 18-19, 2021, with the possibility to participate remotely. The theme of the symposium–which is described in greater detail here–is “supranational responses to corruption.” In other words, the symposium will focus on current and prospective anticorruption efforts that transcend national boundaries or governments. Themes of this symposium may include, but are not limited to:

  • Efforts that can transcend national boundaries or governments structures when it comes to generating and operationalizing anticorruption policies and measures undertaken by intergovernmental organizations, regional organizations, institutional investors, donors, and private sector firms;
  • Efforts to establish regional/global investigative, prosecutorial, and adjudicatory anticorruption institutions;
  • Efforts to enhance coordination and collaboration among the actors undertaking anticorruption efforts at the international level.

The organizers are inviting proposals for both full papers (minimum 5,000 words) and short essays (minimum 2,500 words) from scholars, private sector professionals, international organizations professionals, policymakers, public officials, civil society organizations, and the broader international anti-corruption community. The deadline to submit a proposal is May 15, 2021 (a month from today). A proposal should be between 250 and 500 words, and should indicate how the proposed paper or essay relates to the themes of the symposium. To submit a proposal, you should send it (together with a brief biographical statement) to acsymposium2021@gmail.com. Successful applicants will be informed by June13, and the deadline for submitting the full paper or essay will be September 25, 2021.

This sounds like a great event on an important set of topics, so I hope that many of you will consider submitting proposals!

New Podcast, Featuring Tommy Thomas

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available. In this week’s episode, I interview Tommy Thomas, who served as the Attorney General of Malaysia in 2018-2020, and who in that capacity headed the investigation and prosecution of cases arising out of the so-called 1MDB corruption scandal. Our conversation covers both the 1MDB scandal and the broader political and economic circumstances that contributed to and facilitated this and similar sorts of corruption. We also discuss Malaysia’s anticorruption institutions, the factors that are most important to ensuring the independence and effectiveness of these institutions, and possibilities for reform. Toward the end of the interview, Mr. Thomas explains recent political developments, including those that led up to his resignation in early 2020, and also touches on the challenges of finding and recovering stolen assets. 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 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 Thomas Stelzer

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available. In this week’s episode, I interview Thomas Stelzer, who is currently the Dean of the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA), and who recently served as a member of the United Nations High-Level Panel on International Financial Accountability, Transparency and Integrity for Achieving the 2030 Agenda (a mouthful of a name, which is why this distinguished group is usually referred to as the FACTI Panel). After Dean Stelzer opens our conversation with a discussion of his own professional background and interest in corruption, the interview turns to the FACTI Panel’s report, published this past February, and the report’s recommendations for combating illicit international financial flows. (In addition to the full report, which runs to 49 pages not including annexes and references, FACTI has released a shorter executive summary, as well as an interactive web page.) I asked Dean Stelzer about several of the report’s recommendations that seemed especially pertinent to the fight against grand corruption, and he gamely responded some of the questions and concerns that I raised about certain aspects of the report. In addressing these issues, Dean Stelzer emphasized the importance of more and better research on the topic of illicit financial flows, as well as the need for sustained efforts to ensure effective implementation of reforms such as those that the FACTI Panel outlined. 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 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–March 2021 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. As always, I welcome suggestions for other sources that are not yet included, including any papers GAB readers have written.

New Podcast, Featuring Olesea Stamate

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available. This episode is something of a milestone for us, as it is the fiftieth episode we have put out since the podcast premiered over two years ago. I’d therefore like to take this opportunity to thank my collaborators at the Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Network (ICRN), all of the wonderful guests who have taken time out of their busy schedules to appear on the podcast, and, perhaps most of all, you all of our listeners. I hope that the podcast has been helpful in providing helpful, stimulating, and sometimes provocative content concerning the fight against corruption around the world, and we look forward to the next fifty episodes. For this milestone episode, I’m delighted to feature my recent interview with Olesea Stamate, who is an advisor to President Maia Sandu of Moldova, and who previously served as Moldova’s Minister of Justice when Ms. Sandu was Prime Minister of the country in 2019. Ms. Stamate discusses her background in civil society and how it has informed her work in government service, and we then turn to discuss the current political situation in Moldova and the challenges of corruption and state capture facing the country. Ms. Stamate emphasizes the pervasive corruption in the institutions of justice–particularly the courts and prosecution service–and argues that these institutions cannot be expected to reform from within. Rather, she advocates an external review and vetting process to weed out corrupt actors and create a more honest and capable justice sector. Ms. Stamate also discusses reforms to Moldova’s key anticorruption agencies, the constructive role that the international community can play in supporting anticorruption reforms, and what other sorts of reforms are necessary to address the challenges facing the country. 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 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 Diana Chigas and Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available. In this week’s episode, I interview Diana Chigas and Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, who are Professors of Practice at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and affiliated with Tuft’s Henry J. Leir Institute. After describing how they came to a focus on corruption from a background in conflict resolution and peace-building, Professors Chigas and Scharbatke-Church describe the “systems analysis” approach that they use when evaluating and planning anticorruption interventions. That approach stresses understanding the social forces and social norms that sustain corrupt practices as a system, and focuses on identifying useful entry points for policy interventions. The interview moves from this general high-level analytical framework to a discussion of concrete examples of how this methodology can be used to design concrete interventions and support local efforts to promote integrity and change systems. 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 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.

International Anticorruption Academy Spring Course on Obtaining Mutual Legal Assistance

It is the rare corruption investigation today that does not cross one or more national boundaries.  The bribe payer is located in one country, the bribe taker in a second, and the bribe stashed in a third.  Successful prosecution of the payer and the taker and recovery of assets requires collecting information in multiple jurisdictions, and though obtaining evidence abroad has progressed far beyond sending a letter rogatory and hoping for the best, the process is still involved. A misstep can delay receipt of needed material by months if not years and in some cases can permanently bar its receipt.

How to speed the process of obtaining evidence from another country while avoiding common missteps is the focus of a four-week, online course offered by the International Anticorruption Academy April 12 through May 8, 2021. As the course description explains, it will cover not only the formal request and receipt of information for use at trial, but informal avenues for obtaining leads, “tips,” and intelligence to advance an ongoing investigation. The two methods, collectively termed Mutual Legal Assistance or MLA, require investigators, prosecutors, and increasingly defense counsel to combine knowledge of domestic and international law with a practical savvy about how to get things done. The instructor, yours truly, will cover both with the help of guest lecturers who will discuss use of the UNODC’s MLA writer tool and obtaining evidence from the United States and Switzerland.

An outline of the topics to be covered (with welcome input from a certain GWU adjunct law professor — thank Tom) is here and a bibliography here.  Comments on either welcome.  Registration information is here.

Anticorruption Bibliography–February 2021 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. As always, I welcome suggestions for other sources that are not yet included, including any papers GAB readers have written.

New Podcast, Featuring Gary Kalman

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available. In this week’s episode, we’re delighted to welcome back to the podcast Gary Kalman, the Director of Transparency International’s United States office. I was fortunate to be able to interview Gary a little over one year ago, just before he stepped into his new role as TI’s U.S. Director. In our more recent conversation, we had the opportunity to discuss how his first year in this position has gone, touching on some major successes–most notably the passage of the Corporate Transparency Act, which requires companies to provide the government with information on their true beneficial owners–as well as ongoing challenges. Gary discusses some of the advocacy strategies that proved effective on the corporate transparency issues, and suggests how similar strategies might be deployed to advance other aspects of the anticorruption agenda. He also lays out what he sees as the highest priorities for TI’s advocacy work in the United States, and what vulnerabilities have been exposed by the experience with the Trump Administration and how those might be addressed. 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 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 Paper: “A Proposal for a Global Database of Politically Exposed Persons”

My former student (and former GAB contributor) Ruta Mrazauskaite and I have a new paper, in the Stanford Journal of International Law, entitled “A Proposal for a Global Database of Politically Exposed Persons.” Here’s the abstract:

As part of the global effort to combat public corruption, anti-money laundering laws require financial institutions and other entities to conduct enhanced scrutiny on so-called “politically exposed persons” (PEPs)–mainly senior government officials, along with their family members and close associates. Unfortunately, the current system for identifying PEPs–which depends entirely on a combination of self-identification, in-house checks, and external private vendors that rely on searches of publicly available source material–is both inefficient and in some cases inaccurate. We therefore propose the creation of a global PEP database, organized and overseen by an inter-governmental body. This database would be populated with data compiled by national governments, drawing primarily on the data those governments already collect pursuant to existing.financial declaration systems for public officials. A global PEP database along the lines we propose has the potential to make PEP identification more accurate and more efficient, reducing overall compliance costs and allowing compliance resources to be used more productively.

I hope readers will find the paper and the proposal to be of interest, and we welcome comments, criticisms, and further ideas about how to address the problem that our proposal is meant to ameliorate.