April 05, 2013
Private Sector Anti-Bribery Initiatives?
Posted by David Zaring

I'm at the American Society of International Law's annual meeting, where I attended one panel in which an oil services company’s in-house counsel outlined a way that the private sector is launching its own efforts to reduce the number of bribes paid to foreign officials - the thing that has launched a huge new Washington FCPA bar.  

These efforts largely amounted to recommendations as to how to engineer the regulatory process to reduce the opportunities for government officials to seek bribes from his industry.  Oil service firms and importers have, for example, tried to automate as much of the customs process in Indonesia as possible, limiting the number of personal interactions between firms and officials.  They have lobbied the Indonesian government to clarify whether companies must pay government inspectors per diems.  They have pursued similar sorts of initiatives in India, Vietnam and other countries, with varying degrees of success. 

The private sector initiatives were creative, and suggest that there may be an organized private role for compliance as well as a public one. One might expect that businesses would find the anti-corruption rules to be burdensome and unrelated to their bottom lines.  They might be presumed to wish to avoid engagement with the law.  But the increasing corporate effort to pursue its own anti-corruption interests appeared more than a public relations effort, or an attempt to build safe harbors in light of the potential for future prosecutions.  Rather, it appeared to be an effort to look to transparency to make enforcement of the anti-corruption rules simple – and therefore compliance all the easier.  

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