On December 6, 2021, the White House announced another “whole-of-government approach” to comprehensively address a problem, releasing the first-ever United States Strategy on Countering Corruption (the Strategy). This follows President Joe Biden’s June 3 national security memorandum, which identified corruption as a core national security interest and directed an interagency review to develop a presidential strategy to combat corruption within 200 days. The Strategy seeks to “identify and rectify persistent gaps in the fight against corruption.” The release was made days before President Biden hosted the Summit for Democracy on December 9 and 10 with leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector from around the world.
The White House announcement and Strategy highlight corruption’s negative effect on the country’s citizens, business environment, and equality. The Strategy focuses on “the transnational dimensions” of corruption, “recognizing the ways in which corrupt actors have used the U.S. financial system and other rule-of-law based systems to launder their ill-gotten gains.” The Strategy takes a broad view of bribery and attempts to address corruption from “small-town hospital administrator[s]” as well as “globe-trotting kleptocrat[s]” and “autocratic leaders.”
The Strategy, a 38-page document, focuses on “five mutually-reinforcing pillars,” each supported by several strategic objectives and lines of effort (LOEs). Government agencies working toward these objectives will make annual progress reports to the President.
Pillar 1: Modernizing, coordinating, and resourcing U.S. government efforts to fight corruption
The Strategy’s first pillar seeks to adapt the United States’ approach to corruption, asking departments and agencies across the government to devote additional resources and collect relevant data to “understand and map corruption networks and related proceeds” and better support other departments and external partners. External partners include foreign, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments as well as partners from the private sector, multilateral institutions such as the G7 and United Nations, civil society, and the media.
The LOEs identified include creating an anticorruption task force at the Department of Commerce similar to task forces at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Department of the Treasury (Treasury) , and Department of State (State). The Strategy mentions leveraging existing resources across departments and also seeking additional resources from Congress. The Strategy specifically identifies the need for a significant increase in support for Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to create a data system detailing the beneficial ownership of certain shell companies in order to assist law enforcement.
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Associates S. Patrick Kelly and Alexia A. Jansen contributed to this Sidley Update.
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