The Five-Pillar Framework of the USSCC
In the USSCC, the Biden Administration identifies five pillars of strategic objectives that will be areas of focus, and highlights specific lines of effort it will undertake to further these strategic objectives. The pillars are as follows:
Pillar 1: Modernizing, coordinating, and resourcing U.S. Government efforts to fight corruption.
The Administration intends to adapt existing U.S. approaches to corruption to better address the ways that corruption infects the global economy. These adaptations include improving information-gathering and sharing information with both domestic and international partners, establishing an anti-corruption task force at the Department of Commerce, and incorporating anti-corruption programming into key Administrative priorities.
Pillar 2: Curbing illicit finance.
To address current U.S. regulatory deficiencies that do not adequately prevent money laundering, illicit trafficking, and other criminal acts used by corrupt actors to shelter their illicit proceeds, the Administration intends to update and alter the U.S. anti-money laundering regime. Some key initiatives will include finalizing beneficial ownership regulations and creating a database of beneficial owners of certain companies in order to identify bad actors, regulating real estate transactions to better reveal when real estate is being used to hide or launder criminal proceeds, creating minimum reporting standards for investment advisors and other types of equity funds, and aggressively enforcing actions against money launderers and their enablers.
Pillar 3: Holding corrupt actors accountable.
To increase the accountability of corrupt actors, the Administration will continue to enforce existing laws as well as work with Congress to create new authorities to address corruption. This will include continuing to enforce foreign bribery cases through the FCPA, money laundering charges, and forfeiture actions; establishing a pilot Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards Program through the Treasury to identify and recover stolen assets held at U.S. financial institutions; and encouraging the adoption of anti-corruption compliance programs in the private sector both within the United States and abroad.
Pillar 4: Preserving and strengthening the multilateral anti-corruption architecture.
The Administration also seeks to strengthen multilateral initiatives, agreements, and standards that address and support anti-corruption efforts across the world. The Administration will implement this through actions such as continuing to support and strengthen anti-corruption schemes in organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Organization of American States (OAS), and the United Nations, as well as pushing the G7 and G20 to enact transparency and anti-corruption measures across all ministerial tracks.
Pillar 5: Improving diplomatic engagement and leveraging foreign assistance resources to advance policy objectives.
Finally, the Administration intends to use diplomatic engagement and foreign assistance to fight corruption on a global scale. This will involve a careful assessment of local political, economic, and social dynamics to prevent U.S. assistance dollars from purposefully or inadvertently reinforcing corrupt power structures. To this end, the Administration will be taking actions such as elevating anti-corruption work as a diplomatic priority; strengthening the anti-corruption capacity of the public sector through transparency, enhancing governance, and support of independent audit and oversight institutions; and re-evaluating criteria for government-to-government assistance to ensure adequate transparency and accountability.
The USSCC in Context
The Biden Administration released the USSCC in a context of further guidance and policy pronouncements from within and beyond the Administration, intended at least in part to advance an anti-corruption agenda. For instance, on October 28, 2021, Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Lisa O. Monaco gave the keynote address at the ABA’s 36th National Institute on White Collar Crime, announcing a series of changes in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) corporate criminal enforcement policies, including by requiring broader disclosures for companies to earn cooperation credit, considering both similar and dissimilar prior corporate misconduct, and by endorsing a more favorable view toward the imposition of corporate compliance monitors. Thereafter, on November 26th, the OECD adopted a comprehensive series of recommendations for member countries and OECD Anti-Bribery Convention signatories to integrate into their legal frameworks to combat foreign bribery of public officials. Although a number of the tools and initiatives set forth in the USSCC are not new, the confluence of these pronouncements reflects the Biden Administration’s desire to convey its focus on anti-corruption.
For companies in sectors whose work is implicated by the government’s broader-lens approach at understanding and stopping corrupt activity—ranging from the financial services to the real estate sector—the Administration’s recent pronouncements signal increased scrutiny. More broadly, multinational companies must be prepared not only for scrutiny from enforcement officials in multiple jurisdictions, but for coordination among those officials as parallel inquiries proceed. As enforcement and regulatory efforts integrate and devote resources to increasingly sophisticated methods, so too must companies take steps to ensure that their compliance programs are identifying potential issues—and accounting for the ever-increasing government scrutiny they could find themselves facing.
Authored by Lillian S. Hardy, James G. McGovern, Matthew Sullivan, and Elizabeth Cochrane.