President Biden Declares Anticorruption Efforts a Core U.S. National Security Interest

Jones Day

The memorandum calls for more resources, legislation, and interagency and cross-border coordination to significantly bolster U.S. anticorruption enforcement.

On June 3, 2021, President Biden issued a memorandum declaring anticorruption efforts to be "a core United States national security interest" and announcing a plan to "significantly bolster" anticorruption enforcement. While prior administrations have highlighted anticorruption as a key enforcement priority, the memorandum, coupled with recent statements by senior Department of Justice ("DOJ") officials regarding a significant focus on enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act ("FCPA"), underscores the Biden administration's priority for domestic and foreign anticorruption enforcement and cross-border coordination.

The memorandum directs 15 agencies, including the DOJ, the Treasury Department, and the State Department, to conduct an interagency review process and to prepare a report and recommendations on the development of a Presidential anticorruption strategy. The key priorities of the review are to modernize and improve the ability to combat corruption through increased resources, the promotion of cooperation with domestic and international partners, and legislation.

Indeed, on June 10, 2021, a bipartisan congressional caucus announced an effort aimed at combatting global corruption and kleptocracy. Another priority is to implement mechanisms aimed at combatting "all forms of illicit finance," through legislation, financial transparency, improved information sharing, and other reforms. One of the memorandum's goals is to make it "increasingly difficult for corrupt actors to shield their activities."

The memorandum marks the United States' continued focus on FCPA and other international corruption investigations and enforcement activities through a variety of means, including more interagency and cross-border coordination. With the memorandum's express link between corruption and national security and its direction for an interagency review process, the Biden administration is undeniably seeking to bolster anticorruption efforts on an unprecedented level by enlisting a broad array of U.S. government agencies on such efforts.

And while the DOJ already works with many international regulators on FCPA investigations, the memorandum's provisions relating to international support and collaboration will, in all likelihood, result in even more (and more effective) parallel and joint investigations involving U.S. authorities and their counterparts throughout the world. In the longer term, this may well result in the DOJ having stronger and more formalized collaboration with, and additional resources and support from, other government agencies (particularly from the U.S. intelligence agencies and national security tools) in their international anticorruption enforcement efforts. Financial institutions, in particular, may see new levels of oversight by the Treasury Department, especially in light of the Anti-Money Laundering Act's enactment earlier this year.

For these reasons, expect continued, if not increased, focus on FCPA enforcement and international anticorruption enforcement coordination under the Biden administration.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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