Guest Post: The Impact of Foreign Anti-Bribery Laws on the Demand-Side Countries

Francesco De Simone, an Advisor at the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, contributes the following guest post:

What are the consequences of “supply side” foreign bribery laws, like the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and UK Bribery Act (UKBA), on the developing countries that are often the bribe receivers in foreign bribery cases (the “demand side”)? When can OECD country (say, the United States) prosecutes a company for paying a bribe in a developing country (say Nigeria), what are the implications for Nigeria – for its institutions and for its overall corruption environment and anti-corruption framework? How does the investigation or prosecution affect Nigeria’s ability to investigate prosecute the same case? What are the consequences if the U.S. case is settled? How can Nigeria obtain restitution of the proceeds of the bribe? And should it?

Although foreign anti-bribery laws like the FCPA have attracted a great deal of analysis and discussion (including on this blog: see here, hereherehere, and here), there is much less material on those sorts of questions. (An exception is the work by Professor Kevin Davis, see here and here, also discussed on this blog.) In a new U4 paper I co-wrote with Bruce Zagaris, we attempt to provide a more in-depth analysis of how supply-side enforcement of foreign anti-bribery laws by OECD countries affects parallel investigation and enforcement action in the demand-side country whose officials allegedly took the bribes. Unfortunately, reliable information on how many supply-side enforcement actions result in parallel investigations by the demand-side host countries is not currently available (so far as we know), but we were able to extract a great deal of useful information from FCPA and UKBA cases, as well as other recent studies like the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) Left Out of the Bargain report.

The main takeaways from our study can be summarized as follows: Continue reading

UNCAC, Asset Recovery, and the Perils of Careless Legal Analysis

A little while back I posted a critical commentary on the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative’s Left Out of the Bargain report.  The report described – and implicitly but clearly criticized – the fact that although the U.S. and other “supply-side” jurisdictions had recovered substantial amounts of money in settlements with bribe-paying firms, only a relatively small percentage of those settlements were transferred to the “demand-side” countries where the bribery took place.  These demand-side countries (which the report, to its credit, carefully avoids calling “victim countries”) are the ones that are “left out” of the “bargain” (that is, the settlement) between bribe-paying firms and supply-side governments.

I read the report as calling for, among other things, greater redistribution of settlement proceeds to demand-side governments, and expansion of the ability of those governments (or private parties) to pursue “follow-on” actions.  My main criticism was that the report neglected to consider the effect that either change would have on the incentives of firms and supply-side enforcers.  Two of the report’s authors, Ji Won Park and Jacinta Odour, posted an interesting reply to my post, which I recommend (along with my rejoinder, which can be found in the comments section of the original post).  But although the main focus of my critique and their response was the incentives issue, our exchange also revealed an important difference of opinion regarding the meaning and significance of the UN Convention Against Corruption, particularly its provisions on asset recovery.  It’s that issue that I want to explore here.

In my original post, I remarked in passing that the StAR report “elides … the distinction between asset recovery actions—in which a country seeks the repatriation of assets stolen by the country’s own nationals (usually former officials or their family members)—and actions for penalties or disgorgement brought against a firm or individual for allegedly bribing foreign officials.” In their response, Park and Odour “disagree that the [Left Out of the Bargain] study does not distinguish between repatriation of assets stolen by public officials and monetary sanctions imposed in foreign bribery settlements.”  The report does this, they say, “through the lens of UNCAC.” They explain that UNCAC Article 51 (the first Article in Chapter V, on asset recovery) states that “[t]he return of assets pursuant to this chapter is a fundamental principle of [UNCAC], and States Parties shall afford one another the widest measure of cooperation and assistance in this regard.”  Park and Odour then declare that this obligation to assist in the return of assets “applies not only to the mandatory return of assets that proceed from embezzlement and misappropriation […] but also to proceeds of corruption from other offences covered by UNCAC (such as Article 16 on Foreign Bribery) and compensating victims.”

If I’m reading this right, Park and Odour seem to be suggesting that, for purposes of States Paries’ obligations under UNCAC Article 51, there is no significant difference between stolen assets recovered in a forfeiture action, fines recovered in anti-bribery enforcement actions, disgorged profits, compensatory damages, and the like; they are all “assets” within the meaning of Article 51 – which implies, presumably, an undifferentiated obligation to “repatriat[e]” (in Park & Odour’s word) both stolen assets and “monetary sanctions imposed in foreign bribery settlements.”

I don’t believe this assertion can withstand close legal analysis, and I certainly think it is misguided as a matter of policy.

Continue reading