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US, UK fight foreign bribery, but most nations do very little


The 1997 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development convention prohibits bribes from winning contracts and licenses or dodge taxes and local laws.

In October 2020 Transparency International ranked the United States and the United Kingdom as the largest exporters most active at enforcing rules meant to prohibit companies from paying bribes in foreign markets but said many others are doing next to nothing.

Transparency International said only four of 47 countries — the US, UK, Switzerland and Israel, making up 16.5% of global exports — were actively enforcing legislation against foreign bribery in 2019.

That's down from seven countries, making up 27% of exports, conducting active enforcement in 2018.

Gillian Dell, the lead author of the Transparency report, said:
  • "Our research shows that many countries are barely investigating foreign bribery,"

  • "Unfortunately, it's all too common for businesses in wealthy countries to export corruption to poorer countries, undermining institutions and development."

Country risk
  • China, the world's largest exporter and not a signatory to the convention, was found to conduct "little or no enforcement," in a category that includes India, and convention members Japan and Korea.

  • Germany, the world's third-largest exporter and a signatory to the convention, only conducts "moderate enforcement," as do other significant exporters like France, Italy and Spain.

  • Germany and Italy pursued fewer cases in 2019 than in the previous year, while France and Spain improved their performance.

  • The Netherlands, Canada and Austria — all signatories to the convention — are the biggest exporters in the category of those showing only "limited enforcement."

Transparency International head Delia Ferreira Rubio said
  • "Too many governments choose to turn a blind eye when their companies use bribery to win business in foreign markets,"

  • "G-20 countries and other major economies have a responsibility to enforce the rules."

Transparency's recommendations include:
  • Ending secrecy in ownership of companies, which makes investigating foreign bribery difficult, and

  • Exploring increased liability of parent companies for the actions of their foreign subsidiaries.

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