Gregory A. Brower is Chief Global Compliance Officer for Wynn Resorts. He also serves on WLF Legal Policy Advisory Board and is the WLF Legal Pulse’s Featured Expert Contributor, White Collar Crime and Corporate Compliance.
In a Presidential Memorandum dated June 3, 2021, the White House laid down a marker with respect to the fight against corruption around the world. Noting that corruption corrodes public trust, hobbles effective governance, and distorts markets, the document warns that corruption “threatens national security…and democracy itself.” The memo goes on to declare that the Biden Administration considers this fight to be a “core national security interest,” and is committed to leading the effort to “promote good governance; bring transparency to the United States and global financial systems; prevent and combat corruption at home and abroad; and make it increasingly difficult for corrupt actors to shield their activities.”
Specifically, the memo directs an interagency review process to develop a Presidential strategy aimed at creating a coordinated plan to modernize and increase U.S. government efforts to combat a range of corrupt activities and hold corrupt individuals and organizations accountable. This interagency effort will be led by the White House, with participation from State, Treasury, Justice, Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, DOD, CIA, and other agencies, making this a truly whole of government effort. The memo sets forth several ambitious goals, including: (1) improving the ability of key government departments and agencies to fight corruption; (2) combatting illicit finance both domestically and internationally by improving transparency; (3) holding corrupt individuals and organizations accountable by increased intelligence sharing and enforcement activity; (4) supporting oversight and accountability actors, including the media, to hold leaders accountable; (5) working with international partners to counter corruption by foreign leaders and state-owned or affiliated organizations; and (6) promoting partnerships with the private sector to advocate for anti-corruption measures.
The clear message in this memo for business organizations, especially those operating internationally, is that they should take action to reassess their corruption risks and implement appropriate mitigation measures based on these risks. Corporate compliance officers would be well advised to conduct renewed risk assessments aimed at key risk areas specific to their company’s operations. While the Biden Administration’s specific enforcement priorities remain a work in progress, this memo forecasts that global anti-corruption efforts will be a priority over at least the next three years. Companies and their boards should see this as a clear sign that the new Administration is likely to ramp up enforcement actions and prosecutions for corporate corruption and financial crimes, with specific areas of focus to include AML, FCPA, FARA, cybersecurity, and export controls.
Finally, as the memo expressly states, the White House sees the private sector as having a very important role in this overall anti-corruption effort. Accordingly, it is now critically important to business organizations across all sectors to maintain a robust culture of compliance, to adequately support compliance efforts, and to prepare for an increasingly vigorous enforcement environment.