A new directive released Thursday by President Joe Biden instructed U.S. federal agencies to make combating corruption a national security interest.
“My administration will lead efforts to promote good governance; bring transparency to the United States and global financial systems; prevent and combat corruption at home and abroad; and make it increasingly difficult for corrupt actors to shield their activities,” Biden stated in the memo. The memo calls for an interagency review process and development of a presidential strategy that will, when implemented, “significantly bolster” the U.S. government’s anti-corruption efforts.
Most relevant to chief compliance officers and in-house counsel at companies across all sectors: The memo will bolster the U.S. government’s ability to “combat all forms of illicit finance in the United States and international financial systems, including by robustly implementing federal law requiring United States companies to report their beneficial owner or owners to the Department of the Treasury; reducing offshore financial secrecy; improving information-sharing; and, as necessary, identifying the need for new reforms.”
Compliance practitioners in the financial services industry, particularly, may feel the ripple effect, as the memo further seeks to “bolster the capacity of domestic and international institutions and multilateral bodies focused on establishing global anti-corruption norms, asset recovery, promoting financial transparency, encouraging open government, strengthening financial institutions’ frameworks to prevent corruption in development finance projects, and combating money laundering, illicit finance, and bribery, including, where possible, addressing the demand side of bribery.”
It also signals a greater focus on individual accountability by further aiming to strengthen the U.S. government’s ability to “hold accountable corrupt individuals, transnational criminal organizations, and their facilitators, including by, and where appropriate, identifying, freezing, and recovering stolen assets through increased information sharing and intelligence collection and analysis, criminal or civil enforcement actions, advisories, and sanctions or other authorities, and, where possible and appropriate, returning recovered assets for the benefit of the citizens harmed by corruption.”
The memo aims to “promote partnerships with the private sector and civil society to advocate for anti-corruption measures and take action to prevent corruption.
It also seeks to “support and strengthen the capacity of civil society, media, and other oversight and accountability actors to conduct research and analysis on corruption trends, advocate for preventative measures, investigate and uncover corruption, hold leaders accountable, and inform and support government accountability and reform efforts, and work to provide these actors a safe and open operating environment domestically and internationally.”
On a global front, Biden directed U.S. federal agencies to “work with international partners to counteract strategic corruption by foreign leaders, foreign state-owned or affiliated enterprises, transnational criminal organizations, and other foreign actors and their domestic collaborators, including, by closing loopholes exploited by these actors to interfere in democratic processes in the United States and abroad.”
The interagency review is set to be completed within 200 days, followed by the submission of a report and recommendations to Biden by his assistant and national security advisor for his further direction and action.