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7 June 20213 minute read

President Biden’s Anti-Corruption Memo – key highlights

On June 3, 2021, the Biden Administration issued its Memorandum on Establishing the Fight Against Corruption as a Core United States National Security Interest aiming to bolster coordination among the government’s various agencies engaged in corruption prevention, detection and prosecution, and designating these efforts a “core United States national security interest.”[1]

The memo directs government agencies, through an inter-agency review process, to develop an anti-corruption strategy in the next 200 days aimed at, among other things:

  • Reinforcing inter-department and inter-agency cooperation
  • Strengthening accountability of corrupt individuals and organizations and, where appropriate, returning recovered assets to the foreign countries harmed by corruption
  • Enhancing transnational cooperation
  • Promoting partnership with the private sector to advocate for anti-corruption measures
  • Establishing best practices and enforcement mechanisms to facilitate foreign assistance and security cooperation

The memo offers a look into the Administration’s potential focal points for inter-agency action, which include:

  • “Leaders [who] steal from their nation’s citizens”
  • Abuse of power for personal gain
  • Misappropriation of public assets
  • Bribery
  • Laundering the proceeds of these acts across national borders
  • Offshore financial secrecy
  • Transparency of ownership
  • Anonymous shell companies and professional service providers who enable laundering of illicit wealth
  • Transnational criminal organizations

The implementation of the objectives outlined in the memo could also lead to the prosecution of non-traditional corruption targets, such as foreign bribe-takers,[2] as the memo makes several references to foreign officials who sometimes remained unprosecuted under US anti-bribery laws. 

Importantly, the Biden Administration’s directive foreshadows a greater focus on fighting corruption abroad and in the United States through more coordinated efforts from US Administrative Departments including Justice, Treasury, State, Defense and Homeland Security Departments, among others.

[1] See Joseph Biden. “Memorandum on Establishing the Fight Against Corruption as a Core United States National Security Interest,” White House Briefing Room (3 Jun. 2021) available at Accessed June 4, 2021.

[2] Courts have traditionally held that foreign officials cannot be charged with violating the FCPA, because the statute does not criminalize the receipt of a bribe by a foreign official.  See United States v. Blondek, 741 F.Supp. 116, 117 (N.D. Tex. 1990), aff’d United States v. Castle, 925 F.2d 831 (5th Cir. 1991) (finding that the FCPA “does not criminalize the receipt of a bribe by a foreign official.”)