Taking bribery out of business

For twenty years, rigorous implementation of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention has been at the heart of global efforts to tackle corruption and establish a fair and level playing field for businesses and citizens to thrive.

What's the issue?

Delays in the delivery of public services to citizens, misallocation of precious resources, unnecessary additional costs, poor roads and railways, shoddy bridges and buildings – these are just some of the detrimental consequences of bribery and corruption. Consequences that often hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest.

Yet only two decades ago, bribery was widely accepted as a standard part of doing business all over the world. In many countries, bribes were even accepted as a tax-deductible expense. As opinions changed and many began denouncing this behaviour worldwide, taking bribery out of the equation in international business became a necessity.

How do we address it?

Today, 44 countries have signed the Anti-Bribery Convention, including all OECD members and a number of partners (Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Peru, Russia and South Africa). These countries committed to make the bribery of foreign public officials a crime, and implement effective policies to prevent, detect, investigate and sanction this crime. They also agreed to provide prompt and efficient international co-operation in cross-border corruption cases.

Signing the Anti-Bribery Convention is only the first step. The inter-governmental OECD Working Group on Bribery ensures countries stick to their commitments through a rigorous and unique system of monitoring, and that countries continuously improve their anti-corruption systems.

Before the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention was signed in 1997, there was no effective multinational framework for the prevention and prosecution of bribery.

Lorretta E. Lynch Former US Attorney General

What's the impact?

More than 20 years of implementation of the Anti-Bribery Convention has led to nearly 800 companies and individuals receiving sanctions for foreign bribery, at least 125 individuals put behind bars, and over 500 investigations underway in 30 countries.

The Convention has also been a catalyst for ensuring those who expose wrongdoing are better protected and for the widespread adoption of legislation to ensure that companies – not just individuals – can be held to account for unlawful behaviour, not only for foreign bribery. This has forced many companies worldwide to adopt or strengthen their ethics and compliance programmes in order to detect and prevent improper conduct.

A landmark example is the successful sanctioning in 2016 of the global construction conglomerate, Odebrecht, and its subsidiary, which resulted in the largest ever penalty imposed in a foreign bribery case, totalling USD 3.5 billion. Brazil, Switzerland and the United States, all signatories to the Anti-Bribery Convention, worked together on what the US Department of Justice called “the largest foreign bribery case in history”. The record fine served to compensate the victims and to fill public coffers. Brazil’s commitments under the Anti-Bribery Convention also helped propel the adoption of a new law in 2014, which enabled Brazil to hold companies like Odebrecht accountable for corrupt practices, both at home and overseas.

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Annual report
2023 Ministerial Council Meeting documents
2023 Ministerial Council Statement