Guest Post: UK Bribery Prosecutions and the Rule of Law

Mat Tromme, Project Lead & Senior Research Fellow at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, contribute today's guest post, which is based on discussions at a recent Bingham Center-Duke Law School FCPA Roundtable:

In the latest sign that the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) it is flexing its prosecutorial muscle, the SFO recently opened a case against British American Tobacco, and in June convicted four senior executives from Barclays Bank for conspiracy to commit fraud. This adds to the SFO’s growing list of "successes," such as cases against the ICBC Standard Bank, Tesco, and Rolls Royce. It also raises some important questions (which aren't new), on the one hand about the means used to prosecute bribery, and on the other about the extent to which ongoing economic considerations such as Brexit might put an end to what appears to be good momentum.

Despite the SFO's "wins," some critics are disappointed with the Rolls Royce deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) and questioned whether the SFO is sufficiently aggressive in prosecuting corruption. This view follows concerns that the Rolls Royce case failed to meet the interests of justice and illustrates how big companies are let off the hook where the prosecution of bribery is concerned. Such concerns echo criticisms that DPAs in the United States, which pioneered their use, undermine the rule of law by letting individuals avoid prosecution, and by allowing this area of law to develop outside of the public eye and with very little judicial oversight. This leaves the lasting impression of a two-tiered criminal system by promoting a “too big to jail” culture. DPAs, it is also been argued, undermine both the deterrent effect of the law and incentives to self-report. Continue reading

Countering Procurement Corruption with Integrity Pacts: The Indian Experience

Corruption in government procurement is a massive problem worldwide, especially in developing countries. In an ideal world, measures to combat procurement corruption would include structural changes that would open up monopolies, break cartels, and enact rational, uniform, and effective procurement laws. Sadly, the potential effectiveness of these measures is matched only by the near impossibility of their implementation any time soon. We should continue to push for comprehensive structural solutions to the procurement mess, of course. But in the meantime, are there other measures that can be implemented in countries struggling with widespread procurement corruption, which can at least help alleviate the problem?

One possible solution, heavily promoted by Transparency International (TI), is the use of so-called “Integrity Pacts” (IPs). An integrity pact is a voluntary agreement between a government agency and the bidders entering into a procurement contract, where both sides agree to refrain from corrupt practices. Bidders violating the pact could be blacklisted, placed under investigation, or have their contracts cancelled. Civil society actors monitor and arbitrate disputes in enforcement of IPs. The first IP was implemented in Ecuador for a refinery project in 1994; since then, TI has collaborated with government agencies to implement IPs in public contracts of more than 30 countries including Germany, Hungary, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Argentina, Pakistan, China and India.

No one expects IPs to be a panacea—deeper structural reforms are still essential. But do IPs at least help? Or are they a distraction from more meaningful reforms? While a general answer may not be possible, we can learn from the past three decades of experience with IPs in different countries. One useful test case for the effectiveness of IPs is India. And the evidence is, on the whole, encouraging. Continue reading