Corruption poses an existential threat to prosperity, security, and democracy – for Americans and for people around the world. When officials steal from their citizens or oligarchs flout the rule of law, honest businesses cannot compete, poverty grows, conflict deepens, and trust in government plummets. In recognition of this grave threat, President Biden established countering corruption as a core U.S. national security interest and issued the first United States Strategy on Countering Corruption.
Today, we recognize International Anti-Corruption Day and mark two years since the release of the Strategy, the United States is proud to host the tenth Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC COSP). This week, thousands of government representatives will be joined in Atlanta, Georgia by an unprecedented number of civil society members, academics, and private sector leaders – highlighting the importance of an inclusive approach to countering corruption. As the only legally-binding global anti-corruption instrument, the UNCAC serves as the bedrock for multilateral coordination on corruption and the international benchmark for how countries can be more transparent, responsive, and accountable to their citizens. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield is leading a robust U.S. government delegation to the COSP; her keynote address is available here.
Following up on the commitment National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan made to “significant, genuine, real, tangible, recognizable progress on this massive problem” at the International Anti-Corruption Conference last year, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield announced this morning that the President has signed a Presidential Proclamation restricting the entry into the United States for those who enable corruption. Corrupt actors and their financial facilitators undermine the U.S. and international financial systems – and will be held to account. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield also announced today several new programmatic investments, U.S. asset recovery actions, and progress in implementing the Corporate Transparency Act.
The United States remains resolute in its commitment to fighting corruption. Key accomplishments and future areas of emphasis include:
Pillar One: Modernizing, Coordinating, and Resourcing U.S. Efforts to Fight Corruption
- The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) established a dedicated Anti-Corruption Center within the new Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance to make anti-corruption a durable Agency priority. The Department of State’s Coordinator on Global Anti-Corruption led the integration of anti-corruption priorities into bilateral policy processes and regional strategies, including those related to the U.S Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability.
- USAID commissioned research on corruption dynamics, including Countering Corruption through Social and Behavior Change, Anti-Corruption Programming in Low Political Will States, and Performance Evaluation of USAID’S Response to Pandemic-Associated Corruption. The State Department oversaw research on state capture and strategic corruption and plans to initiate a small grants program to fund anti-corruption learning products in 2024.
- The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) implemented an expanded agreement with the State Department to deploy five regional anti-corruption advisors to strategic locations around the world and to coordinate more closely with the International Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre. The Department of Justice continued, in coordination with the Department of State, to place experienced anti-corruption Resident Legal Advisors and law enforcement experts in foreign jurisdictions seeking assistance to investigate and prosecute corruption and related offenses, and to recover assets.
Pillar Two: Curbing Illicit Finance
- The Department of the Treasury (Treasury) furthered efforts to prevent corrupt and other illicit actors from laundering funds through anonymous companies. Starting January 1, 2024, many domestic and foreign companies doing business in the United States will be required to report to Treasury information about their beneficial owners, the people who ultimately own or control them. Treasury is engaging in extensive outreach about this new reporting requirement and will soon finalize a rule establishing parameters around access to and protection of this information, which will be stored in a secure, non-public database.
- To prevent money laundering and misuse of residential property by corrupt and other illicit actors, Treasury aims to issue a proposed rulemaking on the residential real estate sector early in 2024. Treasury also aims to publish in 2024 a proposed rule applying anti-money laundering and other obligations to investment advisers to address the illicit finance risks associated with this sector.
- The Department of State funded programs to increase the capacity of international law enforcement to target and disrupt illicit finance, with results such as $20 million in seizures of gold, minerals, metals, and currency related to illicit trade-based money laundering. Future programming also will tackle citizenship and residency by investment schemes that are used to launder illicit funds.
Pillar Three: Holding Corrupt Actors Accountable
- Today, President Biden issued a Presidential Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons Enabling Corruption. Through this Proclamation, the United States is the first country to establish a visa restriction authority for those who facilitate and enable significant corruption and their immediate family members. The Proclamation also expresses the U.S. government’s intent to more vigorously use existing sanction authorities to target private enablers of public corruption – including by freezing their assets.
- In 2023, the Department of Justice’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Unit secured over $500 million in penalties and disgorgements in five corporate resolutions, charged over 10 individuals, and secured important convictions. For example, the former National Treasurer of Venezuela and her husband were sentenced to 15 years in U.S. prison for accepting and laundering over $136 million in bribes.
- This year, Treasury used financial sanctions to hold accountable more than 130 individuals and entities engaged in corruption and related activities, spanning 17 countries, while the Department of State issued public visa restrictions on more than 90 individuals for their involvement in significant corruption. These designations have continued to prompt local investigations and create space for anti-corruption reformers to pursue accountability. In line with the Democracies against Safe Havens initiative, the Departments of State and Treasury have also coordinated sanction and visa actions with the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia this year. The United States also worked to strengthen the capacity of civil society to expose and report on corruption cases and continued dialogue with non-governmental organizations on anti-corruption sanctions policy and implementation.
- The United States vigorously pursued law enforcement actions against corrupt actors. For example, Roger Ng (former Managing Director at Goldman Sachs) was sentenced to 10 years in prison for conspiring to launder billions of dollars embezzled from the Malaysian state-owned development fund known as “1MDB” and bribing government officials in Malaysia and UAE; Goldman Sachs admitted to conspiring to violate the FCPA in connection with the scheme and paid more than $2.9 billion as part of a multi-country resolution of this case. Glencore, a Swiss-based commodities and mining company, was ordered to pay more than $700 million in fines and forfeiture for its decade-long bribery scheme involving multiple countries in Africa and Venezuela.
- As part of its commitment to returning stolen assets for the benefit of the people harmed by corruption, where appropriate, the Department of Justice returned $1 million in corruption proceeds to the Federal Republic of Nigeria for renovating specific health centers. Additionally, the Department of Justice obtained a final order forfeiting approximately $53 million tied to the corruption and embezzlement scheme involving Nigeria’s former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke. Subject to appropriate approvals, the United States and Nigeria intend to negotiate an agreement regarding how these funds will be used to benefit the people of Nigeria.
- The Department of State continued to build justice sector capacity, including through support for 11 Department of Justice trainings in Europe, Africa, Central America, and Asia for over 450 investigators, prosecutors, and judges. USAID launched Global Accountability Program/Strengthening National Architectures to Counter Corruption, a five-year, up to $30 million program to enhance country systems and capacity to prevent, identify, track, investigate, and disrupt transnational corruption, grand corruption, illicit finance, and kleptocracy, including across high risk sectors.
- The role of non-governmental actors in advancing accountability was strengthened, including through the Department of State’s Global Anti-Corruption Consortium, which over the last year produced 36 investigations, 60 legal submissions, and advocacy resulting in 25 laws or policies changed around the world. USAID awarded the five-year up to $10 million Empowering the Truth Tellers: Asia Investigative Reporting Network program to foster cross-border collaboration among Asian investigative journalists on transborder crime and corruption.
- The Department of State’s Global Initiative to Galvanize the Private Sector as Partners in Combating Corruption launched a platform of more than 50 leaders from multinational companies and civil society to dialogue and develop tools that will level the playing field for fair competition, while USAID’s Doing Business with Integrity call for innovations will award up to $4 million to private sector entities and others demonstrating how anti-corruption efforts can be good for business.
- The Administration is developing a suite of legislative proposals that would strengthen law enforcement and visa authorities for pursuing anti-corruption cases, and we look forward to partnering with Congress to advance these proposals in 2024.
Pillar Four: Preserving and Strengthening the Multilateral Anti-Corruption Architecture
- The State Department coordinated with partners to preserve and strengthen implementation of the multilateral anti-corruption architecture. As part of hosting the UNCAC COSP this week, the United States convened the first-ever Anti-Corruption Civil Society Forum and announced new support for regional anti-corruption hubs in Mexico, Colombia, Kenya, and Thailand to accelerate UNCAC implementation.
- The Department of Commerce and Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced substantial conclusion of the negotiations with 13 partner countries on the anti-corruption and tax pillar (Fair Economy Agreement) of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, which will facilitate compliance with international anti-corruption standards.
- The United States proudly returned to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Steering Committee and established its own OGP Secretariat in the General Services Administration to accelerate domestic implementation. USAID issued new three-year grants of up to $3.25 million to OGP and up to $3 million to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative to accelerate country-level implementation, including on anti-corruption.
- The Department of State and USAID are co-leading a Summit for Democracy cohort on Financial Transparency and Integrity, bolstered by U.S. programmatic investments in procurement reform, beneficial ownership, and addressing enablers of corruption. Treasury, the Department of Justice, and the Department State worked to enhance international standards pertaining to beneficial ownership transparency and asset recovery at the Financial Action Task Force, and adherence to these standards. Multiple agencies plan to mark the 25th Anniversary of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in 2024, emphasizing the need for robust implementation of the Convention and highlighting the significance of fighting foreign bribery to promote shared prosperity.
Pillar Five: Improving Diplomatic Engagement and Leveraging Foreign Assistance
- The United States provided $252 million in Fiscal Year 2022 to counter corruption, including programming across a range of sectors and countries.
- USAID’s Countering Transnational Corruption Grand Challenge for Development is providing seed funding and in-kind support to more than a dozen promising innovations, including in green energy mineral supply chains. USAID is seeking partners for new activities that, in 2024, include a focus on climate finance and global health supply chains. The Department of State’s Anti-Corruption Solutions through Emerging Technology program has generated nearly 20 technological approaches to strengthen e-governance and prevent corruption, and it awarded $7 million to improve budget transparency and support civil society through the Fiscal Transparency Innovation Fund.
- To support reformers, the Department of State announced the 2023 honorees of the Anti-Corruption Champions Award last week and, since 2022, has organized anti-corruption exchange programs with over 400 participants.
- The Department of Defense (DOD) identified security sector governance as a strategic priority for 2025-2029 and increasingly incorporates institutional capacity building as an integral part of DOD security cooperation efforts. The Department of State provided strategic support on tackling corruption to partner nations’ national security and defense institutions through the Global Defense Reform Program.
- USAID opened applications for Reporters Shield, an innovative membership-based legal assistance program to combat legal harassment meant to silence investigative journalists and activists. Six months since it opened, Reporters Shield has already received applications from more than 45 countries and, so far, selected 25 member organizations.
- The United States is working with partners to implement the Blue Dot Network initiative to certify quality, sustainable infrastructure projects that have met global standards, including for transparency and anti-corruption. The United States is also supporting development of an Infrastructure Anti-Corruption Toolkit to help limit corruption in infrastructure development, in line with the requirements of the Blue Dot Network.
- USAID’s Integrity for Development campaign is rallying bilateral donors, foundations, and multilateral actors to match USAID’s anti-corruption investments, with the goal of bringing half a billion dollars to the fight against corruption by the end of 2024, subject to the availability of funds.