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The Global Hunt on Corruption is About to Intensify

The global cost of corruption is estimated at US$ 1 trillion by the World Bank Institute. The audience at the 6th In-house Counsel Monitor event Monday 2 December in Amsterdam was given an opening wake-up call by Jermyn Brooks, Board Member and Chair, Business Advisory Board of Transparency International. This is an enormous amount of money hampering fair competition and in the end mostly burdening low income earners and small businesses.

After an initial period with a few landmark cases, it is now becoming clear that the global hunt on corruption is about to intensify. Most notably in China, where the new regime is taking determined steps to battle corruption and create a level playing field. The exposure of the systematic corruption conducted by GlaxoSmithKline is only one example of many companies that are being investigated for wrongdoing. Mr Xianyue Bai, a Chinese lawyer who was selected by the China Ministry of Justice and China Bar Association to speak abroad, was one of the seven speakers at the In-house Counsel Monitor event. Mr Bai aptly explained China’s legal system regarding anti-commercial bribery, something that is often confused in western media.

Concurrently in the UK, just when companies have started to relax after the initial fear mongering regarding the UK Bribery Act and its extraterritorial reach, there is a  new Director in charge of the Serious Fraud Office. ‘There’s a new sheriff in town’ said Jonathan Kelly, UK based partner of Cleary Gottlieb, warning that the enforcement attitude of the SFO will now likely harden. The new Director has expressed that he will be less likely to negotiate than his predecessor.

Transparency is a key factor in the fight against corruption. The absence of public scrutiny makes for a fertile field in which corruption can grow. This is the conclusion drawn by Carola Hoyos, correspondent with the Financial Times, after having conducted nearly two years of research into the offset deals made by the defence industry around the world. Flabbergasting amounts of money surrounds decisions made by countries regarding the purchase of their defence equipment, but the citizens of those countries are not meant to know what ‘sweeteners’ are thrown in to sway the decision of their government.

These are a few highlights drawn from the 6th Houthoff Buruma In-house Counsel Monitor seminar that took place Monday 2 December. Approximately 350 in-house counsel gathered in the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ in Amsterdam to listen to the seven speakers. More information on the speakers and their presentations can be found at www.bedrijfsjuristenmonitor.comHouthoff Buruma is an EACCNY member.