HSE University Anti-Corruption Portal
The United States Adopts an Anti-Corruption Strategy

The United States has adopted its first ever Strategy on Countering Corruption.

The Strategy was presented to the public in the course of the Summit for Democracy which was held on December 9 and 10 and saw the participation of representatives of governments, civil society and the private sector from across the world.

In spite of the fact that the United States has a strong international stance and successfully enforces its comprehensive anti-corruption legislation both domestically and internationally with respect to foreign bribery, it is for the first time that the country adopts a single strategic document in this regard.

The explanatory note stresses that the Strategy pays particular attention to deeper understanding of the transnational scale of corruption and the respective counteraction, including the adoption of additional measures to diminish the ability of corrupt actors to use the U.S. and international financial systems to launder their ill-gotten gains.

The Strategy rests on five pillars each of which has specific goals and objectives to attain them.

1. Modernizing, Coordinating, and Resourcing

Strategic Objective 1.1. Enhance corruption-related research, data collection, and analysis

  • Increasing intelligence prioritization, collection and analysis on corrupt actors and their networks;
  • Augmenting and improving analysis of how corruption threatens the United States, its partners, and allies across the political, social, and economic spheres; working toward a more comprehensive understanding of this threat picture by departments and agencies by sharing information and data with the appropriate parts of the Federal Government, as well as with state, local, tribal, and territorial partners;
  • Supporting and better using analysis conducted by external partners, including academia, the private sector, civil society, and media.

Strategic Objective 1.2. Improve information sharing within the U.S. Government, with non-U.S.-Governmental entities, and internationally

  • Improving communication efforts and information exchange among departments and agencies, conducting public awareness campaigns related to the fight against corruption, including by increasing focus on corruption’s lesser-understood dimensions such as the ways that corruption impacts vulnerable groups at a disproportionate rate, the impact of corruption as a transnational phenomenon, and the role of illicit finance in enabling corrupt acts.
  • Promoting information sharing among departments and agencies, as well as with governmental and non-governmental partners, in order to curb illicit finance, hold corrupt actors accountable, and bolster international partnerships.

Strategic Objective 1.3. Increase focus on the transnational dimensions of corruption

  • Increasing the focus on the transnational aspects of corruption, including kleptocracy and the use of corruption by state actors and their proxies to advance national policy aims, through human and financial resourcing, information and intelligence collection and analysis, and through foreign assistance, information sharing, and partnerships with the private sector, multilateral institutions, civil society, and media actors.
  • Continuing to link the anti-corruption efforts with those designed to tackle transnational organized crime, including understanding and disrupting networks, tracking flows of money and other assets, and improving information and intelligence sharing across U.S. departments and agencies, and, as appropriate, with international and non-governmental partners.

Strategic Objective 1.4. Organize and resource the fight against corruption, at home and abroad

  • Providing the independence and resources to law enforcement necessary to investigate and prosecute domestic crimes involving abuses of the public trust; ensuring greater transparency in the U.S. campaign finance system, and strengthening of prohibitions on foreign nationals attempting to influence elections at all levels.
  • Establishing and supporting cross-cutting teams designed to combat corruption, such as an Anti-Corruption team of the Department of the Treasury, an Anti-Corruption Task Force of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and an Anti-Corruption Working Group of the Department of Commerce etc.
  • Significantly increasing in resources the support of Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) authorities to build a new beneficial ownership data system; adequately resourcing FinCEN and those departments and agencies who identify, investigate, and take enforcement actions against fraud, money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing.

Strategic Objective 1.5. Integrate an anti-corruption focus into regional, thematic, and sectoral priorities

  • To achieve this goal, the U.S. Government will integrate anti-corruption considerations into the full range of its foreign policy-making, including by incorporating anti-corruption objectives into strategies and plans for regions and priority countries, using platforms to convey how the United States is expanding its anti-corruption efforts, integrating anti-corruption considerations across foreign assistance, and providing financial assistance to infrastructure and climate action.

2. Curbing Illicit Finance

Strategic Objective 2.1. Address deficiencies in the anti-Money laundering regime

  • Publishing regulations and building a beneficial ownership database to implement the Corporate Transparency Act to counter the use of opaque legal structures to hide and launder the proceeds of crimes.
  • Publishing effective regulations implementing the provisions of the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that require prospective Federal contractors and grantees to disclose beneficial ownership information for inclusion in the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System database; improving organizational transparency in corporate decision making, board makeup, and executive compensation.
  • Including reporting requirements for those with valuable information regarding real estate transactions in the legal provisions (the U.S. real estate market has become a significant destination for the laundered proceeds of corruption – editor’s note).
  • Re-examining the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) that would prescribe minimum standards for anti-money laundering programs and suspicious activity reporting requirements for certain investment advisors; further considering whether to cover other funds, including investments offered by hedge funds and private equity firms.
  • Analysing the possibilities for strengthening the oversight of non-financial agents, including lawyers, accountants, trust and company service providers, and incorporators, who act as facilitators of corruption schemes, and considering ways to increase penalties on gatekeepers who facilitate corruption and money laundering, including by levying professional sanctions.
  • Advancing the efforts to tackle tax evasion.
  • Reviewing the risk posed by digital assets, including the ways in which corruption contributes to those risks and refining regulations as needed; engaging countries to help with the analysis and development of central bank digital currencies in a manner consistent with stability, consumer and investor protection, and countering illicit finance.
  • Conducting a study of the facilitation of money laundering, terrorism finance, and other illicit financial dealings through the trade in works of art; exploring the need to amend the Bank Secrecy Act by including in it as a type of financial institution a person engaged in the trade of antiquities thereby making them subject to the reporting requirements.
  • Assessing and seeking to remedy identified vulnerabilities in the U.S. AML regime.

Strategic Objective 2.2. Work with partners and allies to address deficiencies

  • Expand the involvement of U.S. law enforcement bodies in formal and informal networks like the Camden Asset Recovery Interagency Network, and the International Anti-Corruption Coordination Center; engaging to increase cooperation with other countries’ law enforcement, particularly on investigations leading to asset recovery; providing assistance in capacity building.
  • Increasing cooperation with like-minded countries to prevent the establishment of new safe havens for corrupt actors and their ill-gotten gains; assisting in providing financial information critical to asset recovery, and in providing preventative measures, enforcement of forfeiture or confiscation orders, and asset returns, consistent with the U.S. international obligations.
  • Working with allies and partners to identify and pressurise gatekeepers and facilitators, including those in the transportation, logistics, and construction industries.

3. Holding Corrupt Actors Accountable

Strategic Objective 3.1. Enhance enforcement efforts

  • Enforcing anti-money laundering criminal and civil laws, including newly established tools: expanded subpoena power of the Department of Justice (DOJ) for certain financial records maintained abroad, disclosure requirements for beneficial ownership information, as well as financial rewards to incentivise reporting on Bank Secrecy Act violations in financial institutions and for information leading to the identification and seizure of illicit proceeds.
  • Analysing the criminal misuses of cryptocurrency, particularly crimes committed by virtual currency exchanges, mixing and tumbling services (mixing of potentially identifiable cryptocurrencies with others to conceal the information about their owner – editor’s note), and money laundering infrastructure actors.
  • Continuing to aggressively pursue foreign bribery cases, and working with other governments to enact similar [to the FCPA] laws and regulations.
  • Implementing the initiatives against kleptocracy such as the DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative in the framework of enforcement of anti-money laundering legislation.
  • Implementing a pilot Kleptocracy Assets Recovery Rewards program pursuant to the FY 21 NDAA.
  • Excluding corrupt companies from U.S. Government contracts, subcontracts, grants and related business opportunities.

Strategic Objective 3.2. Update tools available to hold corrupt actors accountable at home and abroad

  • Enacting legislation criminalizing the demand side of bribery; enforcing new and existing laws, including in the countries where the bribery occurs; assisting in capacity building for enforcement of such laws and in recovery of proceeds affecting the U.S. financial system.
  • Engaging with foreign jurisdictions to address vulnerabilities created by Citizenship by Investment programs, as corrupt actors can use their benefits to achieve enhanced access to the international financial system and visa-free mobility; enhancing the process for vetting and granting visas to immigrant investors under the U.S. EB-5 program.

Strategic Objective 3.3. Work with partner countries to bolster anti-corruption enforcement to amplify the use of tools

  • Advancing efforts to multilateralize economic sanctions and visa restriction tools designed to curtail corruption in line with the international commitments around the denial of safe havens; expanding partnerships with non-governmental actors, such as civil society, investigative media, and the private sector in the fight against corruption and impunity, especially in countries where governmental cooperation is impractical.
  • Implementing a new Democracies Against Safe Havens Initiative.
  • Assisting partner governments seeking to enact and implement foreign bribery laws; advocating for the full implementation of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions and a new Revised Recommendation for Further Combating Bribery in International Business Transactions, negotiated with U.S. support.

Strategic Objective 3.4. Strengthen the ability of foreign partner governments to pursue accountability in a just and equitable manner

  • Deepening cooperation with and providing assistance to countries with the political will for meaningful anti-corruption efforts.
  • Linking governmental actors with counterparts and willing partners at the regional and global levels in order to foster greater cooperation in detecting, tracking, and referring corruption cases (DOJ, in particular, will focus on building partnerships with counterparts to address and counter transnational corruption).
  • Deepening support to initiatives and networks that facilitate the exchange of information and enhance foreign partners’ capacity to pursue accountability at the transnational level.

Strategic Objective 3.5. Bolster the ability of civil society, media, and private sector actors to safely detect and expose corruption, increase public awareness, and pursue accountability

  • Boosting efforts to support, defend, and protect investigative journalists and other civil society and media actors on the front lines of the fight against corruption; promoting anti-corruption compliance measures in the private sector, and unleashing private sector advocacy for anti-corruption reform; expanding partnerships with the private sector to root out corruption and enhance information sharing, including on corruption-related best practices and typologies, also in the framework of different programs and initiative such as Combating Transnational Corruption Grand Challenge and Empowering Anti-Corruption Change Agents Program, the Global Anti-Corruption Consortium, the Global Initiative to Galvanize the Private Sector as Partners in Combating Corruption, and the launch of the new global Anti-Corruption Champions Award.
  • Expanding and using existing regulatory authorities more effectively (including a mechanism for law enforcement to engage with points of contact at more than 14,000 financial institutions to locate accounts and transactions of persons who might be involved in money laundering and terrorist financing under Section 314 of the USA PATRIOT Act).
  • Implementing the FinCEN priorities for AML/CFT policy issued last June and specifying how financial institutions should incorporate these priorities into their risk-based AML programs.
  • Engaging with non-governmental actors seeking to share actionable information with law enforcement experts; providing a safe and enabling environment to those exposing, reporting on, and fighting corruption and, as appropriate, for their relatives and other close persons; supporting and protecting any U.S. person against any unjustified treatment with respect to such activities.

4. Preserving and Strengthening the Multilateral Anti-Corruption Architecture

Strategic Objective 4.1. Bolster existing anti-corruption frameworks and institutions

  • Providing financial support and expertise to the operation of international anti-corruption frameworks and their review mechanisms; pressing foreign partners to fulfill their obligations to criminalize and prosecute foreign bribery; defending against attempts to weaken global anti-corruption norms regarding the provision of safe havens for corrupt actors or corrupt proceeds as well as attempts to exclude civil society from international fora; implementing obligations under global (the UNCAC, the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, the FATF recommendations), and regional treaties and frameworks.
  • Strengthening UNCAC implementation.
  • Building accountable, effective, and resilient security institutions.

Strategic Objective 4.2. Redoubling efforts at multilateral fora

  • Under this item, the U.S. intends to pursue its anti-corruption objectives in a range of international fora, including the G7, G20, FATF, international financial institutions, multilateral trust funds, the Open Government Partnership, and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

5. Improving Diplomatic Engagement and Leveraging Foreign Assistance Resources to Advance Policy Goals

Strategic Objective 5.1. Elevate and expand the scale of diplomatic engagement and foreign assistance that address corruption

  • Elevating anti-corruption as a priority within U.S. diplomatic and public diplomacy efforts.
  • Expanding anti-corruption assistance, monitoring the efficacy of this assistance, including through external evaluations.
  • Integrating anti-corruption considerations across other spheres of development assistance, including global health, anti-crime and rule of law, conflict and fragility, and humanitarian assistance.
  • Establishing new and expanded foreign assistance programs to enhance the capacity and independence of oversight and accountability institutions, including legislatures, supreme audit institutions, comptrollers, and inspector generals.

Strategic Objective 5.2. Protect anti-corruption actors

  • Deploying programming to respond to harassment of journalists, reformers, and other anti-corruption change agents.
  • Increasing education in the anti-corruption community about existing global emergency assistance mechanisms in the event that they have been threatened or attacked for their work.
  • Countering Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (nuisance/unfounded defamation suits – editor’s note) filed against journalists and anti-corruption activists.

Strategic Objective 5.3. Leveraging innovation in the fight against corruption

  • Using innovation to prevent and combat corruption, helping foreign governments in using technology to combat corruption also by hosting “hackathons” and “TechSprints”; partnering with private sector actors from key industries, technologists, civil society and media, researchers and academics, and philanthropists.
  • Expanding existing, and develop new, rapid response tools for emerging areas of increased risk for corruption; implementing two new response funds: USAID’s Anti-Corruption Response Fund that will support, test, and pilot evidence-based, responsive, and transformative anti-corruption programming, and the Global Anti-Corruption Rapid Response Fund that will be jointly managed by State and DOJ and will enable expert advisors to consult with and assist foreign anti-corruption counterparts around the world.
  • Considering how to further incorporate a transnational lens into U.S. anti-corruption foreign assistance, including by expanding support for international networks of investigative journalists, civil society advocates, and criminal justice practitioners; expanding opportunities for small organizations to compete for U.S. funds and cooperating with social movements for positive change.

Strategic Objective 5.4. Improve coordination and risk analysis across foreign assistance

  • Developing a common understanding of corruption risks through joint analyses; striving to better “know the partner” and mapping the vectors of corruption in the benefiting country; establishing periodic information-sharing mechanisms to ensure a common understanding of the operating environment, and to facilitate interagency coordination on program design and implementation.
  • Reviewing existing approaches to assessing and addressing corruption risk in development and humanitarian assistance.
  • Continuing to pursue pilot programs in the Dominican Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a “proof of concept” to determine best practices for future interagency collaboration in using foreign assistance to combat corruption.

Strategic Objective 5.5. Improve security assistance and integrate corruption considerations into military planning, analysis, and operations

  • Developing protocols for assessing corruption risk before new or large security assistance activities are initiated; adopting mitigation measures.
  • Assessing the extent, form, and causes of corruption in the security sector and the political will for anti-corruption reforms by the government; establishing internal accountability mechanisms within the security sector.
  • Considering how to incorporate standards for security governance into U.S. review of security assistance programs and arms transfer decision-making.
  • Strengthening defense training to incorporate considerations concerning corruption.
  • Strengthening planning processes in the security sector.
  • Conducting security cooperation evaluations of the highest-cost efforts in countries with significant risks of corruption.
  • Continuing implementation of the security cooperation reforms in the FY17 NDAA, particularly with regard to personnel, training, assessment, monitoring and evaluation.

Across all five strategic pillars, the United States will adhere to the following principles:

  • Consult and Coordinate: to effectively counter corruption, the U.S. Government will consult and coordinate with representatives of civil society, the private sector, international and multilateral organizations, government partners, researchers, and the Congress;
  • Elevate and Engage: consistent with the National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM-1), the U.S. Government will prioritize efforts to reduce corruption as a national security concern within all relevant policymaking processes; elevate anti-corruption efforts through bilateral and multilateral diplomatic engagements; and encourage U.S. states and local jurisdictions, and state-regulated professionals, to redouble their efforts in parallel with federal action;
  • Continuously Assess and Refine the Approach: the U.S. Government will foster a culture of innovation that takes managed risks, assesses impact, and learns from setbacks, adjusting the approach to respond to new challenges and opportunities.
Corruption whistleblowers
Political context
Illicit enrichment
Asset recovery
Civil society
International cooperation
Foreign bribery
Criminal prosecution

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