New Podcast Episode, Featuring Dan Hough

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available. In this week’s episode, I interview Professor Dan Hough, Head of the Department of Politics at the University of Sussex, who previously served as the Director of Sussex’s Centre for the Study of Corruption. After starting out discussing how Professor Hough got interested in studying corruption, the bulk of out interview focuses on Professor Hough’s most recent research project focused on integrity and corruption in sports–including not only cheating on the field and in the organization of major sporting events, but more broadly why better understanding threats to integrity in sports can help the anticorruption community better understand important aspects of the fight against corruption in other contexts. 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.

Announcement: CIPE’s Anticorruption Podcast Roundup (and Contest!)

As most readers of this blog are likely aware, in addition to this blog I also co-run an anticorruption podcast series–called “KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast”–in collaboration with the Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Network. Ours is certainly not the only anticorruption-themed podcast out there. Indeed, it seems that there’s been a proliferation of such podcasts in the last couple of years, and it can sometimes be hard to keep track of all the podcasts that people in the anticorruption may want to follow. Fortunately, the Anti-Corruption & Governance Center at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) has put together a list of ten anticorruption podcasts which are worth checking out. (My ICRN colleagues and I are grateful that KickBack is included in this list!)

Also, as a fun way to publicize all of these podcasts and attract new listeners, CIPE is running a “People’s Choice” contest, where you can vote for your favorite anticorruption podcast and your favorite individual podcast episode(s). You can vote here. I feel like I should put in a plug for KickBack, but really, as folks always say at awards shows, it’s an honor just to be nominated. 🙂

In all seriousness, thanks to CIPE for calling attention to all of these podcasts–some of which I already knew about and listened to, but others of which I only learned about from CIPE’s list, and all of which are worth a listen. I’m providing below links to these ten podcasts, but I would recommend going to CIPE’s post, which provides more detailed descriptions of each podcast. (I’m sure there are more podcasts out there that the anticorruption would find of interest, so I invite readers to publicize other podcasts in the comments on this post.)

Here are the ten anticorruption podcasts on CIPE’s list so far:

New Podcast Episode, Featuring Michael Johnston

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available. In this week’s episode, I interview Michael Johnston, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, at Colgate University. Professor Johnston is one of the leading academic voices on the study of corruption, and has been working in this area for over three decades. In our interview, we discuss the trajectory of his own research on corruption, including his identification and analysis of four distinct “syndromes” of corruption, as well as his broader perspective on the overall direction of the field, how his own views have shifted in light of new findings and developments, and his advice for a new generation of researchers interested in better understanding corruption and how to combat it.

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–November 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. Additionally, the bibliography is available in more user-friendly, searchable from 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.

Conference on Empirical Approaches to Anti-Money Laundering and Financial Crimes

The Central Bank of the Bahamas hosts the Third International Research Conference on Empirical Approaches to Anti-money Laundering and Financial Crimes this January 20 and 21 in Nassau. 

Countering the laundering of the proceeds of corruption and other financial crimes has become a critical issue at both the national and international level. Enormous time and attention has been devoted to putting an end to money laundering and enormous sums spent complying with existing laws and directives. Few, however, are happy with the results to date. 

The principal reason for the failure of anti-money laundering laws is the lack of a sound empirical base on which to build an enforcement regime, a point their critics have made at since Reuter and Truman’s 2004 Chasing Dirty Money. The conference is an important step towards remedying our lack of knowledge about how such basic issues as how money launderers works, where the risks are the greatest, and what are the most effective means for reducing them. Details on attending either in person or online here. Current list of speakers and papers follows.

[Submissions to last week’s poll on the definition of corruption still being received.  It is not too late to enter with the chance to win a lifetime subscription to GAB at the current rate.]

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New Podcast Episode, Featuring Peter Solmssen

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available. In this week’s episode, I interview Peter Solmssen, an American lawyer who currently serves as the chair of the International Bar Association’s Subcommittee on Non-Trial Resolutions of Bribery Cases, and who previous served as the General Counsel of the Siemens Corporation in the immediate aftermath of Siemens’ foreign bribery scandal in 2007-2008. In our interview, Mr. Solmssen discusses his perspective on the Siemens case, including both how and why a successful and large company like Siemens developed systematic bribery schemes in the first place, and how Siemens new leadership in the aftermath of the scandal took steps to clean up the company and change its culture. Our conversation then moves from the Siemens case to broader questions concerning how best to combat transnational bribery, whether statutes like the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) are effective, and the role of the private sector in promoting ethics and integrity.
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–October 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. Additionally, the bibliography is available in more user-friendly, searchable from 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 Will Fitzgibbon

A new episode of KickBack: The Global Anticorruption Podcast is now available. In this week’s episode, my colleague Christopher Starke interviews Will Fitzgibbon, a senior reporter with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), about the Pandora Papers leak and what this evidence, and the associated reporting, reveals about international financial secrecy and the ways in which this system facilitates illicit financial flows and enables corruption, tax evasion, and organized crime. 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.

Professor Rothstein’s Reply to My Critique

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post criticizing several trends that I have noticed in some (certainly not all) anticorruption scholarship. The inspiration and focus of my critique was a post by Professor Bo Rothstein (on the Tufts Corruption, Justice, and Legitimacy (CJL) Blog) which I thought exemplified some of the trends which I found problematic. Just a quick recap:

  • I think that too much anticorruption scholarship is fixated on definitions, and has an exaggerated sense of the importance of definitional debates. In that regard, I criticized (indeed, I characterized as “ridiculous”) Professor Rothstein’s claims that the reason anticorruption reforms had not been more successful is because people are not defining “corruption” in the right way.
  • I think that too much scholarship on corruption misunderstands and misuses social science concepts. Here, I took aim at Professor Rothstein’s assertion (which is hardly unique to him) that “principal-agent theory” can’t help us understand corruption, an argument that appears to be based on a fundamental misunderstanding and mischaracterization of what a principal-agent problem actually is.
  • I also think that too much scholarship on corruption (and, frankly, too much scholarship generally) engages in sweeping and uncharitable dismissal of prior work and thought, often (or so it seems) because the scholar who wants to promote theory/hypothesis A feels the need to suggest that theory/hypothesis B has nothing whatsoever to offer. On this point, I focused on a less prominent but still important argument in Professor Rothstein’s post, namely his assertion that legal reform is irrelevant to the fight against corruption because all countries have “very good laws against corruption.” I took issue with this both because I think it’s wrong on the merits (all countries prohibit core forms of corruption like bribery, but there are huge and important variations in the nature of the specific relevant laws and legal institutions) and because I think such a quick rejection of the extensive and sophisticated line of research on the role of law in the fight against corruption was unhelpful, unnecessary, and counterproductive.

Because my critique focused on Professor Rothstein’s post, and because I had used strong critical language in advancing that critique, I offered Professor Rothstein an opportunity to write a response on this blog. He declined that offer, but he recently informed me that earlier this week he had published a response on the CJL blog. I am delighted that he chose to respond to my critique in writing. It will come as little surprise that I do not find his responses convincing in the slightest (for reasons I’m happy to elaborate if anybody so requests), but I greatly respect his willingness to take the time to write the response, so that our readers can follow the exchange and make up their own minds. Really, the main audience for this dispute consists of up-and-coming young scholars, who are making their own decisions about what kinds of work they want to do, what styles of scholarship and research topics will be most fruitful, and the like. I hope that these young scholars will find the exchange between Professor Rothstein and myself helpful in thinking through the kind of work they want to pursue.

Time-Sensitive Announcement: Call for Civil Society Organization To Join Letter on Corporate Transparency Act Implementation

Today’s announcement is meant specifically for readers affiliated with civil society organizations that work on anticorruption, anti-money laundering, and related issues (especially, though not exclusively, in the United States). As most of you are likely aware, last year the United States enacted the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA), and the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is in the process of developing rules to implement that act. The formal period for public comment on the proposed rules has already passed, but in light of the recent revelations concerning the Pandora Papers–which highlighted, among other things, how trusts have been abused to hide illicit assets–a coalition of civil society organizations, led by Transparency International’s US chapter, is submitting a letter to FinCEN urging the adoption of appropriately vigorous rules. In particular, the letter urges FinCEN (and here I am quoting directly from the letter) to:

  • Maintain the comprehensive definition of “beneficial owner” expressly included in the CTA;
  • Provide for broad coverage of the types of entities required to register, including, but not limited to, all non-exempted trusts;
  • Limit the interpretations of the exemptions, as best as possible, to include only those that file beneficial ownership information elsewhere with authorities or are truly low risk for money laundering, terrorist financing, and other harms; and
  • Allow for timely and complete access to beneficial ownership information for all law enforcement and those with legal obligations to protect our financial system.

The deadline for signing onto the letter is tomorrow, October 13th. As noted above, the letter is intended to be from a coalition of organizations, rather than individuals, but if any of you out there are affiliated with civil society organizations that have not yet signed onto the letter, I urge you to do so.