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Making Progress Against Corruption

Criminal enforcement is a critically important aspect of anti-corruption work.
Criminal enforcement is a critically important aspect of anti-corruption work.

Corruption destroys trust, undermines development, and erodes confidence in democratic institutions.

Corruption destroys trust, undermines development, erodes confidence in democratic institutions and prepares the way for trans-national criminal activities. That is why the United States has made fighting corruption around the globe a high priority.

Corruption is a global problem. It exists in both the private and public sectors, rich and poor countries alike. Ultimately, the citizens suffer the consequences, including higher prices, fewer resources invested in the public sector, exploitative working conditions, pollution, water and power shortages, unsafe medicines and illegal logging.

“Corruption has such negative effects, particular in emerging economies, that we must use every tool at our disposal to fight it,” said Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division at the World Bribery and Corruption Forum in London.

“Although we of course bring our cases [to court] in the United States, our anti-corruption work has become increasingly global in scope, with ramifications for companies around the world.”

So, a South American prosecutor who sold law enforcement information to drug traffickers, was extradited and tried in the United States; the U.S. assets of a corrupt African politician were seized after he was convicted of corruption in the United Kingdom; and thanks to increased policing of corporate conduct, the culture of corporate compliance has improved in recent years.

Given the need for transnational cooperation and shared standards, the U.S. has also championed the development of international conventions that encourage countries around the world to adopt best practices in prevention and enforcement.

“Criminal enforcement is a critically important aspect of our anti-corruption work. The strongest deterrent against corporate wrongdoing is the prospect of prison time,” said Mr. Breuer.

“In recent years, we have witnessed a significant awakening to the problem of corruption around the globe. Russia, China and India are taking foreign bribery more seriously than ever before; the U.K. has an important new Bribery Act; and ... companies and individuals doing business around the world are coming to appreciate that they will be held accountable for the way they conduct business with foreign officials,” he said.

“There is still plenty of work to be done. But we are making progress, and I hope and believe that we will continue to make strides in this area together.”