Eva Hampl, USCIB’s director for investment, trade and financial services was in Paris last week representing USCIB at a special roundtable at the OECD on Integrity, the Fight Against Corruption and Responsible Business Conduct in the State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) Sector.
As a discussant on the issue of transparency, Hampl noted that SOEs are increasing in global commerce, where 22% of the world’s largest 100 firms are effectively under state control. “As SOEs proliferate, they disadvantage companies operating without state support or control,” warned Hampl.
The OECD Foreign Bribery Report, which was published December 2014 and is based on data from the 427 foreign bribery cases that have been concluded since the entry into force of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in 1999, found that bribes were offered or given most frequently to employees of SOEs at 27% of the total cases.
“SOEs are particularly vulnerable to corruption due to factors such as a close relationship between government, politicians and the SOE senior management, and in some cases lack of transparency and reporting,” said Hampl. In addition to the foreign bribery report, OECD research has found that 43 % of SOE employees surveyed have witnessed corruption and other rule-breaking in their company in the last three years.
“Corruption is a cost, also for SOEs,” Hampl added. “The OECD has stated that disclosure and transparency are some of the main concerns regarding market distortions caused by SOEs – the other concern is that SOEs are acting as agents of a sovereign government. The focus on transparency, in which space the OECD has done further work, is certainly important, however with the caveat that in the case of leveling the playing field as to SOEs, it is not a goal in itself.”
Hampl added that there has been a concerning global trend in recent years toward transferring liability from governments onto companies. “This is something that needs to be addressed. To truly level the playing field between SOEs and companies competing in the global market, SOEs must be held to the same standards.”
Following the roundtable, Hampl also participated in the consultation with the OECD Working Party on State Ownership and Privatization Practices, where she reiterated many of the points made at the roundtable, as well as emphasized the importance of the OECD to focus on the demand side of bribery.
Additionally, on the afternoon of Wednesday November 29, USCIB Vice President for Trade and Financial Services Shaun Donnelly will offer business perspectives on a panel discussion on “The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention at 20: Successes and Challenges for the Future” organized by the Coalition for Integrity on the margins of their annual gala dinner later that evening. Panelists being finalized but those invited include: Lucinda Low, member, Board of Directors, Coalition for Integrity, Nicola Bonucci (OECD) and Bruce Swartz, Department of Justice.