This Week in AML

Corruption: A Topic of Global Focus

The US Administration and the United Nations are focusing on the adverse impact of corruption on the global economy and political stability. This week, Executive Vice President John Byrne, and Creative Director Elliot Berman of the AML RightSource staff discuss these efforts and how both organizations are working to create change and motivate nations around the world to take up actions to reduce this nefarious activity.

Corruption - A Topic of Global Focus TRANSCRIPT

John Byrne: Hey, Elliot, how are you doing today? 

Elliot Berman: I'm good. And yourself?

John Byrne: I'm good - a lot going on. And the area that I thought we could spend a couple of minutes talking about is one that's a sort of tried and true in financial crime – corruption. But there seems to be a domestic and a global focus that we haven't seen in quite awhile.

Elliot Berman: Yeah, I agree. I saw that the white house came out with a statement a couple days ago related to some things, some of which has been in the news with the vice president in Central America. And then the UN had an announcement. So, the white house announcement, I assume?

John Byrne: Yeah. And what was interesting - the white house released what they call a “background press call”. So you don't know who's on the call. It's kind of interesting, actually, I've actually never really looked at these sorts of press briefings before. And this was before the vice president or when she was in route to a Guatemala, which we'll mention in a second.

But what I thought was interesting is they actually highlighted the corporate transparency act, talking to reporters how it's important to make changes under US law, and that they said that the law that was, (we talked about quite a bit that was signed), was signed in early January, directs treasury to create that beneficial ownership registry.

So they mentioned that they talked about creating a series of internal government-wide task forces - there's a kleptocracy asset recovery initiative, that actually has been around for a couple of years, but they're sort of adding more to that. So I thought that was particularly interesting.

And then as you point out, the vice president was in Guatemala and they did two things of note that I wanted to flag. One was sort of based on that press briefing - the DOJ and State is creating an anti-corruption task force that's going to include US prosecutors and law enforcement experts, to investigate and prosecute corruption cases that have a nexus in the US, Guatemala, and the whole region.

And again, building off that kleptocracy initiative to prosecute these cases, they're going to add what they call “resident legal advisors” to help with training and mentoring to the public ministry in Guatemala, in what they're calling a rapid response team to deploy US prosecutors to enhance that mentorship. That was one thing it's sort of separate from that. And not corruption based specifically, is a human smuggling and trafficking task force, which we've covered that issue quite a bit, same thing, right? Justice and State with others, working with law enforcement to track migrant smuggling and human trafficking operations and share information and enforcement.

And I know you highlighted what the UN is doing, which, the timing wasn't a coincidence, I'm sure. 

Elliot Berman: No, I'm sure not. So the UN is going to have a special session which at least has been described in a couple of places as the first of its kind, and the focus is going to be on corruption.

Both from a political stability perspective, and from an international economic perspective. And it's interesting because again, it's one of those things we're seeing some traction, not just in the US with our own foreign policy and foreign affairs efforts and not just at the UN, but early last month, you and I had a chat about some new efforts in the UK that are focused on corruption.

I think there's a renewed recognition - not that people weren't aware of it, of the pervasive nature of the problem, but also the insidious nature of the problem that it creates both economic and political instability and while not all human smuggling and trafficking is the result of corruption, there's often a tie in. 

So I certainly see it as a positive that people are paying attention and trying to do things now. Will that mean that we're going to be able to plant a flag and declare victory in three or four years? I don't think so. But if we can keep it from getting worse and over time, make it better with these concerns, these coordinated efforts and thoughtful efforts and long-term efforts, I think that that will be a huge positive. 

John Byrne: Yeah. The only other thing I would add is this was particularly interesting. It came out of the press briefing with the senior administrative official, which they don't disclose who that was. They highlighted when we talked about the anti-corruption efforts, they highlight the importance of investigative journalism and investigative NGOs.

So I think that's, pretty interesting. You'd would've never seen that under the previous administration - no chance. But it says here basically sometimes to deal with supportive anti-corruption efforts, they say it boils down to foreign assistance. So giving funding to groups, that in some cases, jumpstart investigatory journalism organizations. That to me is interesting and that is giving a pat on the back to those journalists that have done so much in our world of financial crime, whether it's looking at shell companies, tax evasion or corruption. So the fact that the US government's highlighting that, especially now when journalism is under fire, I thought it was particularly noteworthy. 

Elliot Berman: Yeah, I agree. Well, I mean, it takes some, it takes some focus and it takes some political courage - all of the participants to really say, “you know, this isn't right, and we're actually gonna put our actions where our values are”. 

John Byrne: Yeah. So good. Going forward, we at RightSource, are going to be doing a webinar on June 24th on corruption, which will include one of our presenters is Tom Cardamone who's with global financial integrity - an advocacy group that does exactly what the administration has highlighted as well as other experts. That will be part of that. So that'll be something that we will be tracking, not just at the webinar, but going forward. I think corruption's going to be at the end of 2021, when we talk about financial crime, I think one of the bullet points is going to be anti-corruption I think is any question 

Elliot Berman: Agreed. All right, you have a great weekend and I will talk with you next week.

John Byrne: Take care. Stay safe. 

Elliot Berman: Yep. You too. Bye. Bye.