In the fight against bribery and corruption, I have always been fascinated by the multiple parts all members of society play. Obviously, regulators play a huge role in the enforcement component of this struggle. But other players have significant roles as well. One of the roles not discussed as widely as many is the role of the Fourth Estate, the press. In the fight against bribery and corruption, the press is often the group that breaks the story leading to enforcement action. Indeed, it was a Wall Street Journal article in 2010 about Hewlett-Packard and corruption in its German subsidiary, which led both the SEC and Justice Department to open an enforcement action involving the company, eventually leading to a $135MM penalty.
In addition to investigative journalism, the day-to-day spade work of many journalists furthers the fight against corruption and bribery. Obviously if you are reading this blog, you are interested in the Compliance Week angle on things. Yet, the publisher of this blog also works to bring other top-notch commentary and information on how to comply with various international regimes. Hence the name Compliance Week.
And still yet others continue to be venues through which information is communicated both up to enforcement agencies and back down to compliance practitioners. When regulators cannot or will not lead the effort in this fight, due to budgetary constraints or simply lack of will, the press fulfills an important role in keeping the pressure on by keeping such issues in the public eye. Put another way, when one plank of the fight against bribery and corruption weakens, another plank can and should step up to continue to do so.
Additionally, while the press can do investigations and bring specific information to the public arena, it can also help as a conduit for others to tell their stories and communicate the continuing public interest. When one part of the chain becomes placid it will take other parts of the chain to keep the system honest, or at least functioning. That has and will be a continuing role for the Fourth Estate.