Recent reports of tax evasion schemes and a lack of accountability among some of the world’s largest companies may suggest that there’s no end in sight for corruption.
While Europe has emerged as a major player that made significant reforms to combat fraud, not all of its countries are on the same page. France has been an early adopter of many international anti-corruption initiatives, including signing onto the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 2000 Anti-Bribery Convention and spearheading efforts to promote greater tax transparency among its businesses. But this has masked even bigger problems. The country’s long history of scandals and lack of aggressive enforcement actions has been a major roadblock in its pursuit to end corruption.
According to a New York Times article, the Justice Department raked in more than $1.3 billion in negotiated fines from four major French companies over the last few years. On top of that, in 2010, Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent went down in history as one of the biggest FCPA settlements of all time. The probe resulted in over $137 million in fines for bribing officials in Costa Rica, Honduras, Malaysia, and Taiwan.
France’s financial authorities have been repeatedly criticized by the OECD and other organizations for its “lackluster response” to fraud and misconduct, says the Times article. Last December, French engineering prowess Alstom pleaded guilty to bribery charges and agreed to fork over $772 million in fines related to a widespread scheme involving “tens of millions of dollars in bribes in countries around the world,” the Justice Department reported.
Other countries such as Britain and Germany have made progress in enforcement actions over the years. The U.K. Bribery Act is most notable for demonstrating its potential for facilitating anti-bribery enforcement and complying with international obligations.