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Transparency International UK Releases Discussion Paper on the Recovery of Corrupt Assets in the U.K.
In May 2015, Transparency International UK ("TI-UK") released Empowering the UK to Recover Corrupt Assets: Unexplained Wealth Orders and other new approaches to illicit enrichment and asset recovery, a discussion paper that addresses the ongoing problem of the laundering of corrupt wealth through the U.K. According to TI-UK, a large amount of corrupt wealth, stolen from around the world, is invested in the U.K. Very few suspicious transactions and assets related to corruption, however, have been frozen by the British government. TI-UK states that in 2014 alone, U.K. law enforcement authorities were able to act on only seven reports of suspicious financial transactions identified as possibly linked to international corruption. After assessing the various asset recovery methods available to U.K. law enforcement authorities, TI-UK recommends that they be given the power to serve Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWO), a civil asset recovery tool used by law enforcement authorities in Ireland, Australia, and Columbia. Suspects issued an UWO would be required to establish that suspicious U.K. assets or transactions had legitimate and legal sources. An UWO could be issued without the government first alleging a crime against the suspect. A refusal to respond to an UWO or an inadequate response could be used by law enforcement authorities to facilitate a civil recovery process against the asset. TI-UK believes that this new power would allow U.K. enforcement authorities to begin acting on corrupt assets immediately and addresses what the organization believes is the most significant weakness in the U.K.'s asset recovery approach, "the over reliance on a conviction in the origin state."
On December 3, Transparency International released its 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The CPI ranks 175 countries based on the perception of public sector corruption and found that more than two-thirds of the countries had a score below 50 on a scale from 0 to 100 which shows that the levels of bribery and corruption in the public sector are still perceived to be very high. Denmark is at the top of the list with a CPI score of 92. The United States was 17th with a score of 74 but scored lower than numerous other G20 countries, including Australia, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom. China had one of the biggest falls, dropping four points from 40 in 2013 to 36 in 2014, despite the fact that its government launched an anti-corruption campaign targeting corrupt public officials. Transparency International called on countries where public sector corruption is limited to stop encouraging it elsewhere by doing more to prevent money laundering and to stop secret companies from hiding corruption. The 2014 CPI can be found at here.
On October 23, the anti-corruption group Transparency International released its annual progress report on the enforcement of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ("OECD") anti-bribery convention. The 41 signatories of the 1997 Anti-Bribery Convention are, among other things, obligated to investigate credible allegations of corruption and, where appropriate, to prosecute those who offer, promise, or give bribes to foreign public officials and subject those parties to effective and dissuasive penalties. In its report, Transparency International found that only four of the 41 signatories to the convention are actively investigating and prosecuting companies that bribe foreign officials. Those four leading enforcers — Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States — completed or initiated 282 cases from 2010-2013. The other 37 signatories to the convention, who account for 77% of world exports, completed or initiated only 73 cases during the same time period. According to Transparency International, enforcement of corruption is low "because investigators lack political backing to go after big companies, especially where the considerations of national economic interest trump anti-corruption commitments." Furthermore, investigators often lack the resources to investigate complex corruption cases. Transparency Intentional found that Canada was the only country to show significant improvement since last year's report, having, among other things, significantly improved its foreign bribery law.
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