Brazil: A Model for International Cooperation in Foreign Bribery Prosecutions

Much ink has been spilled celebrating the extraordinary crackdown on corruption in Brazil over the past few years (including on this blog). Headlined by the massive Operation Car Wash (Portuguese: Lava Jato)—in which officials received nearly $3 billion in bribes to overcharge Petrobras, Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, for construction and service work—high-profile corruption investigations have swept through Brazil, threatening to upend its reputation as a bastion for unchecked graft. Although corruption in Brazil remains a serious problem, the extensive investigations have worked to elevate the nation as an inspiration for countries looking to address their own corrupt political systems and hoping to become “the next Brazil.”

In addition to the headline-grabbing investigations targeting the upper echelons of the Brazilian government, Brazilian authorities have also worked closely with U.S. authorities investigating bribery activity in Brazil, leading to significant penalties both under Brazilian law and under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). This is a significant development, because it demonstrates the possibility for close collaboration on cross-border bribery cases between a developed country (usually on the “supply side” of transnational bribery cases) and a developing country (on the “demand side”). Commentators have complained that too often supply-side enforcers like the United States take an outsized role in transnational bribery cases, with the countries where the bribery takes place doing too little. Other commentators have cautioned that an increase in prosecutions by other countries, in the absence of some sort of global coordination mechanism, may lead to races to prosecution or to over-enforcement. China’s nearly $500 million fine of British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline in 2014 for bribing Chinese doctors and hospitals was emblematic of these fears, providing an example of an aggressive, unilateral approach to demand-side enforcement – while putting DOJ in the unfamiliar position of pursuing FCPA violations as a cop late to the scene.

Through its recent enforcement actions, Brazil has provided a different model. While there have been successful joint enforcement actions in the past—such as the Siemens case—the recent series of coordinated U.S.-Brazil actions exhibit how developed and developing countries can work together in anti-bribery enforcement, sharing in the investigative responsibilities, negotiations with companies, and even the financial returns.

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Brazilian Anticorruption and the World Cup

The FIFA World Cup is more than “a mere sporting event. It’s a tool to promote social transformation.”  So said Ricardo Teixeira, the President of the Brazilian Football Confederation, after Brazil won the bid to host the 2014 games. Despite initial optimism, however, the buildup to the Cup in Brazil has been marred by widespread protests and accusations of corruption. If there is a basis to these accusations, the World Cup provides an early — and high-profile — opportunity to test Brazil’s new anticorruption law. Maryum’s post earlier this week might be right that the national government has a political incentive to prove that it’s serious about anticorruption, but the World Cup contradicts that narrative. The Cup’s high profile might skew the national government’s incentives: identifying corruption in Brazil’s World Cup could be a national embarrassment.  If the federal government’s incentives are misaligned, the decentralized enforcement powers in the CCA – which Maryum’s post criticizes – offer hope that corruption will be punished. Continue reading

Brazil’s Clean Companies Act: Ineffective for Combating Local Corruption?

In January 2014, the Brazilian Clean Companies Act (CCA) came into effect. Under the CCA, Brazilian companies and foreign entities with a Brazilian registered office, branch, or affiliate can be sanctioned (civilly and administratively) for the bribery of domestic or foreign public officials, with penalties up to 20% of a company’s gross billings. The Act may be cause for optimism that Brazil is going to get serious about the corruption that has hampered its development, undermined trust in government, and provoked riots.

But despite the CCA’s tough sanctions and sweeping provisions, there are reasons to doubt whether the law will be effective at combatting corruption at the local level (as opposed to national-level officials).  Even if the CCA might go some way toward dealing with corruption at the national level, the new law fails to to adequately address local-level corruption in Brazil — and this is a major limitation, because local corruption in Brazilian business dealings is especially rampant.  There are at least two reasons why it is questionable the CCA will effectively combat local corruption. Continue reading