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Showing posts for "Rule of Law"

This Week in Markets and Democracy: FIFA Investigations, Corruption in Romania and the Maldives, New South Sudan Report

by Shannon K. O'Neil
British comedian known as Lee Nelson (unseen) throws banknotes at FIFA President Sepp Blatter as he arrives for a news conference after the Extraordinary FIFA Executive Committee Meeting at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland July 20, 2015. World football's troubled governing body FIFA will vote for a new president, to replace Sepp Blatter, at a special congress to be held on February 26 in Zurich, the organisation said on Monday (Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann). British comedian known as Lee Nelson (unseen) throws banknotes at FIFA President Sepp Blatter as he arrives for a news conference after the Extraordinary FIFA Executive Committee Meeting at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland July 20, 2015. World football's troubled governing body FIFA will vote for a new president, to replace Sepp Blatter, at a special congress to be held on February 26 in Zurich, the organisation said on Monday (Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann).

FIFA Investigates Its Own Corruption
A year after the United States and Switzerland went after top FIFA officials on fraud, money laundering, and racketeering charges tied to a $150 million corruption scheme, soccer’s international governing body is taking actions itself. The federation fined former vice president Jeffrey Webb $1 million for accepting bribes and banned him for life from the sport. It also opened an investigation on former President Sepp Blatter and two top associates for bribery, corruption, and conflicts of interest, including adding several illegal provisions to their contracts—boosting their combined salaries to over $80 million, and guaranteeing them eight years of pay even if fired for just cause. FIFA’s new dynamism may begin to restore its tarnished reputation, and the information it uncovers could help U.S. and Swiss prosecutors with their own ongoing criminal cases.

Romania Steps Up Anticorruption Efforts, the Maldives Falls Back

Romania’s and the Maldives’ paths are diverging in the fight against corruption. Last week, Romanian prosecutors showed their independence and resolve by charging former Prime Minister Victor Ponta with abuse of office for influence peddling, for nominating a media mogul to parliament in exchange for financing Tony Blair’s 2012 visit. (Ponta resigned last year amid protests over a separate corruption case.) Ponta’s problems follow the interior minister’s resignation over a pending investigation into alleged embezzlement and abuse of power. In contrast, Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen responded to an Al Jazeera documentary exposing his role in a $1.5 billion money laundering scheme by raiding the offices of a local newspaper and human rights NGO. With a cowed judiciary and a stifled press, it is unlikely the increasingly repressive president will face an investigation any time soon.

Corruption Fuels Conflict in South Sudan

A new report from advocacy organization The Sentry documents how South Sudan’s leaders have looted the country throughout three years of brutal conflict that has displaced 2.5 million and left even more destitute. President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar have stoked ethnic fighting and killings while making millions from illegal stakes in oil, mining, telecoms, construction, and defense companies. With the ill-gotten proceeds, their families and cronies purchased luxury cars, flew in private jets, and bought lavish properties in Australia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda. The United States—South Sudan’s largest donor—can help hold these leaders accountable by imposing sanctions, cracking down on money laundering, and helping to seize and return assets.

This Week in Markets and Democracy: Central America Takes on Corruption, Venezuela’s Protests, G20 Summit

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Venezuelans living in Mexico take part in a protest to demand a referendum to remove Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro at Angel de la Independencia monument in Mexico City, Mexico, September 4, 2016 (Reuters/Edgard Garrido). Venezuelans living in Mexico take part in a protest to demand a referendum to remove Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro at Angel de la Independencia monument in Mexico City, Mexico, September 4, 2016 (Reuters/Edgard Garrido).

Central America Takes on Corruption 
Central American judiciaries have been stepping up to fight corruption. Last year Guatemala’s attorney general’s office, working closely with UN-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), took down then-President Otto Pérez Molina for stealing tens of millions of dollars in customs duties. Pressured by civil society, the Honduran government agreed to a similar Organization for American States (OAS)-backed body, the Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH), to investigate graft after $200 million disappeared from the country’s social security system. And El Salvador’s new Attorney General Douglas Meléndez, sworn in at the start of the year, is prosecuting several high-level officials and former officials with unexplained millions in their bank accounts. While this week’s asylum in Nicaragua for former Salvadorian President Mauricio Funes and his family is a potential setback, the cases themselves represent a sea change in justice for Central America’s Northern Triangle.

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A Game of Inches: The Uncertain Fight Against Corruption in Latin America

by Matthew Taylor
A boy holds a sign which reads, "No more corruption" during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, in downtown Guatemala City, May 30, 2015 (Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez). A boy holds a sign which reads, "No more corruption" during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, in downtown Guatemala City, May 30, 2015 (Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez).

Harvard’s inimitable Matthew Stephenson this week published a thought-provoking blog post comparing anticorruption efforts in Asia and Latin America. Crudely summarizing Stephenson’s argument, a few years ago many looked to Asia as the gold standard in anticorruption efforts, in part because of the success of independent and effective anticorruption agencies (ACAs) in the region. But recent news of political meddling with Hong Kong’s ACA, brazen kleptocracy in Malaysia’s state development fund, and efforts to water down reform in Indonesia all suggest that the pendulum is swinging in a less positive direction. By contrast, Stephenson is optimistic about the important gains made in recent years in Latin America, including by Guatemala’s International Commission Against Impunity (CICIG), Brazil’s Car Wash investigation, elections in Peru and Argentina that highlighted voter frustration with corruption, and Mexico’s “3 out of 3” reforms.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: China’s Private Sector Corruption, Zimbabwe’s Protests, New Corruption Brief

by Shannon K. O'Neil
A man checks a message on his mobile phone, in Harare, Zimbabwe, July 7, 2016 (Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo). A man checks a message on his mobile phone, in Harare, Zimbabwe, July 7, 2016 (Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo).

Chinese Companies lag on Transparency
Chinese companies filled the bottom twenty-five spots in a recent Transparency International report ranking one-hundred emerging market multinationals on anticorruption efforts. Three received zeroes (on a zero-to-ten scale) for failing to list subsidiaries, release financials on foreign operations, or set up antibribery programs. The Chinese government is not pressing for change, instead killing a business-led anticorruption task force within the G20 framework. As a result, foreign companies operating in China are hard-pressed to avoid bribery—a challenge reflected in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) cases. So far this year, over half of all corporate FCPA actions involved bribes paid to Chinese officials, and since 2008, the United States found more cases of misconduct in China than in all other countries combined.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: U.S. Corruption Ruling, China’s Antigraft Drive, Panama Canal Expands

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is trailed by reporters as he departs after his appeal of his 2014 corruption conviction was heard at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S. April 27, 2016. The U.S. Supreme Court on June 27, 2016 threw out McDonnell's corruption convictions in a ruling that could hem in federal prosecutors as they go after bribery charges against other politicians (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst). Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is trailed by reporters as he departs after his appeal of his 2014 corruption conviction was heard at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, U.S. April 27, 2016. The U.S. Supreme Court on June 27, 2016 threw out McDonnell's corruption convictions in a ruling that could hem in federal prosecutors as they go after bribery charges against other politicians (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst).

Supreme Court Rules on Corruption
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s bribery conviction for accepting over $175,000 worth of gifts and loans—including a Rolex watch, designer clothes, and luxury getaways—allegedly in return for favorable business treatment. The court said this did not count as an “official act” of bribery under U.S. law, raising the bar for federal prosecutions of public sector corruption. States can help fill the gap, as Virginia did in the wake of the scandal, setting a straightforward $100 annual cap on gifts from lobbyists and other individuals or businesses angling for government deals or support. Other states ban or set strict gift limits. In Florida, lobbyists (or those who hire them) cannot give more than a flower arrangement; in California, officials cannot accept anything valued over $250. Several states prohibit gifts with “intent to influence”—a hard case to prove. Check out your jurisdiction here.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Ericsson Corruption Probes, EU Spurs Antigraft Action, Modi Courts FDI

by Shannon K. O'Neil
A banner reading "Corruption kills" is placed among candles, lit in memoriam of more than 50 people killed when a fire erupted during a rock concert in a night club in Bucharest, at a memorial in Timisoara, Romania in this November 1, 2015 picture. Big public demonstrations following a fire in a Bucharest nightclub in which more than 50 people died reflect growing anger at a culture of official graft in one of Europe's most corrupt countries (Reuters/Inquam Photos). A banner reading "Corruption kills" is placed among candles, lit in memoriam of more than 50 people killed when a fire erupted during a rock concert in a night club in Bucharest, at a memorial in Timisoara, Romania in this November 1, 2015 picture. Big public demonstrations following a fire in a Bucharest nightclub in which more than 50 people died reflect growing anger at a culture of official graft in one of Europe's most corrupt countries (Reuters/Inquam Photos).

Corruption Probes Spook Ericsson Investors
Both U.S. and Greek authorities are taking on Ericsson AB, one of the world’s biggest telecoms companies, for alleged corruption. The United States is investigating its operations in both China and Romania for potential Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations. The Greeks summoned seven current and former executives over whether the Swedish multinational bribed government officials to win a $597 million defense contract in 1999. These inquires come at a time when the company faces stiff competition, declining sales, and falling share prices. Ericsson is now trying to ease investors’ concerns, hoping the revelations do not get worse.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: International Labor Conference, Brazil’s Corruption Resignations, Politicians vs. the Press

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Garment workers rest inside a factory after their lunch time in Phnom Penh October 8, 2015. Cambodia agreed on Thursday to raise the minimum wage for workers in its crucial textiles and footwear sector to $140 per month from next year, short of the figures demanded by powerful trade unions long at odds with the government over pay (Reuters/Samrang Pring). Garment workers rest inside a factory after their lunch time in Phnom Penh October 8, 2015. Cambodia agreed on Thursday to raise the minimum wage for workers in its crucial textiles and footwear sector to $140 per month from next year, short of the figures demanded by powerful trade unions long at odds with the government over pay (Reuters/Samrang Pring).

Fast Fashion Still Exploits Workers
While multinational retailers such as H&M, Gap, and Walmart can get a swimsuit or sundress from the factory floor to customers’ closets within weeks, new reports show they still do not protect the workers that make this possible. Three years after Bangladesh’s Rana Plaza building collapse, which killed over a thousand workers and injured another 2,500, Walmart refuses to disclose details on factory safety inspections. Documents from a more forthcoming H&M show nearly 80,000 Bangladeshi workers make their clothes in workrooms without basic safety measures such as fire exits. And Gap has balked at Cambodian worker demands for a living wage—they now earn as little as $5 a day. At this week’s International Labor Conference in Geneva, unions and other groups will try to force measures to improve workers’ rights by holding multinationals more accountable.

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The Anticorruption Boom and U.S. Foreign Policy

by Matthew Taylor
British Prime Minister Cameron is joined by Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, (left) Sarah Chayes, a senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Program, (second left) US Secretary of State John Kerry, (third from left) and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, (right), as he opens the international anti-corruption summit on May 12, 2016 in London, England (Reuters/Dan Kitwood). British Prime Minister Cameron is joined by Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, (left) Sarah Chayes, a senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Program, (second left) US Secretary of State John Kerry, (third from left) and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, (right), as he opens the international anti-corruption summit on May 12, 2016 in London, England (Reuters/Dan Kitwood).

April and May brought some of the most important movement on the anticorruption front of any two-month period in the past decade. Recapitulating briefly:

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Deadly Kenyan Protests, Vietnam’s Labor Rights, Still No Haiti Election

by Shannon K. O'Neil
A riot policeman fires a teargas canister to disperse supporters of Kenya's opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) during a protest at the premises hosting the headquarters of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to demand the disbandment of the electoral body ahead of next year's election in Nairobi, Kenya, May 23, 2016 (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya). A riot policeman fires a teargas canister to disperse supporters of Kenya's opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) during a protest at the premises hosting the headquarters of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to demand the disbandment of the electoral body ahead of next year's election in Nairobi, Kenya, May 23, 2016 (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya).

Electoral Violence Starts Early in Kenya
In Kenya, police cracked down on opposition protests, killing three and injuring more. With elections still more than a year away, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) party is demanding that current electoral officials resign for corruption and bias toward President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee coalition. In the wake of the bloodshed CORD halted the demonstrations and agreed to negotiations, responding to other governments’ calls for dialogue. But given Kenya’s history of electoral violence and impunity, many expect clashes to continue.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: UK Anticorruption Summit

by Shannon K. O'Neil
British Prime Minister Cameron is joined by Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, (left) Sarah Chayes, a senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Program, (second left) US Secretary of State John Kerry, (third from left) and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, (right), as he opens the international anti-corruption summit on May 12, 2016 in London, England. Leaders from many of the worlds nations are gathering in London for the summit, which is aimed at stepping up action to tackle the problem of corruption (Reuters/Dan Kitwood/Pool). British Prime Minister Cameron is joined by Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, (left) Sarah Chayes, a senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Program, (second left) US Secretary of State John Kerry, (third from left) and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, (right), as he opens the international anti-corruption summit on May 12, 2016 in London, England. Leaders from many of the worlds nations are gathering in London for the summit, which is aimed at stepping up action to tackle the problem of corruption (Reuters/Dan Kitwood/Pool).

British Prime Minister David Cameron gathered government officials, civil society advocates, and business leaders in London for a one-day summit on corruption, a global “cancer” hindering economic development and growth. Forty countries signed a Global Declaration Against Corruption, promising to prevent, uncover, and punish corruption “wherever it exists.” Many countries followed up the lofty rhetoric with concrete commitments: twenty-one pledged stronger legislation for returning stolen assets, fourteen will open public contracts to scrutiny for the first time, and the UK and five other countries will jointly launch a new anticorruption center to help investigate and prosecute cross-border cases.

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