White House issues first ever Strategy on Countering Corruption: Key highlights
On December 6, 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration issued a memorandum outlining the first ever United States (US) Strategy on Countering Corruption (the Strategy). The Strategy comes on the heels of President Biden’s announcement earlier this year that the fight against corruption is a core US national security interest, and the related memorandum that directed an inter-agency review process aimed at developing an anti-corruption strategy within 200 days, which DLA Piper summarized in a prior alert.
The Strategy released today, the result of this inter-agency review process, sets forth a comprehensive approach for the US to work domestically and internationally with various partners “to prevent, limit, and respond to corruption and related crimes,” with a “particular emphasis” on the transnational elements of corruption. This approach is in recognition of an evolving understanding of “corruption’s strategic impact and the increasing interconnectedness of the global economy.”
Under this comprehensive approach, the US government will organize efforts around five pillars, which are interrelated:
- “Modernizing, coordinating, and resourcing U.S. Government efforts to fight corruption;
- Curbing illicit finance;
- Holding corrupt actors accountable;
- Preserving and strengthening the multilateral anti-corruption architecture; and,
- Improving diplomatic engagement and leveraging foreign assistance resources to advance policy goals.”
Some of the key objectives related to each of the above-listed pillars include:
- Enhancing research, data collection and analysis relating to corruption;
- Integrating considerations that combat corruption “into regional, thematic, and sectoral priorities”;
- Improving the sharing of information inside and outside of the US; and
- Addressing deficiencies in the anti-money laundering regime in place in the US.
The Strategy also foreshadows a few key areas of focus for the Biden-Harris Administration in the coming year – in particular:
- Enhanced role of FinCEN authorities. The Strategy notes that the Fiscal Year 2022 President’s Budget request “included a significant increase in resources in support of … FinCEN authorities to build a new beneficial ownership data system for use by qualified law enforcement.” Additionally, the Strategy reiterates FinCEN’s commitment to incorporate corruption as one of the priorities for AML/CFT policies (Priorities). In the near future, FinCEN is expected to issue regulations specifying how “financial institutions should incorporate [the] Priorities” – including corruption – "into their risk-based AML programs.”
- Heightened focus on cryptocurrency. The Strategy previews a newly established DOJ task force, the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team, which will focus on “complex investigations and prosecutions of criminal misuses of cryptocurrency.”
- Strengthened transnational cooperation to criminalize the demand side of bribery. The Strategy further previews the use of a range of diplomatic and foreign assistance tools to work with allies and partners on (i) enacting legislation that will criminalize the demand side of bribery and (ii) “enforcing new and existing laws, including in the countries where the bribery occurs.”
- Broader cooperation with non-government actors to leverage innovation in the fight against corruption. The Strategy further highlights the US government’s commitment to engage with non-governmental actors, including “a diverse array of non-traditional partners and technologies” “to collaborate on tracking, developing, improving, and applying new and existing technological solutions to systemic challenges in preventing and detecting corruption.”
To ensure that the objectives set forth in the Strategy are being met, federal agencies and departments, coordinated by the National Security Council, will annually report their progress objectives to the president. The Strategy bolsters coordination among the government’s various agencies engaged in corruption prevention, through which it aims to achieve the objectives and line of efforts (LOEs) detailed in the Strategy’s appendix. To reach these goals, the Strategy primarily relies on the recently established anti-corruption task forces and coordinating body within the US Department of Treasury, US Department of Commerce, US Department of State and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Strategy, through the implementation of these strategic objectives, intends to position the US as a leader in “promoting prosperity and security” for Americans and other people around the world. This mission confirms the Administration’s efforts to strengthen the fight against corruption abroad and in the US through more coordinated efforts from the US Administrative Departments as well as broader transnational cooperation.
 See Joseph Biden. “United States Strategy on Countering Corruption,” White House (6 Dec. 2021) available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/United-States-Strategy-on-Countering-Corruption.pdf.
 See President Biden’s Anti-Corruption Memo – key highlights, DLA Piper (8 June 2021) available at https://www.dlapiper.com/en/us/insights/publications/2021/06/president-bidens-anti-corruption-memo-top-points/.
 Joseph Biden. “United States Strategy on Countering Corruption,” White House (6 Dec. 2021) available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/United-States-Strategy-on-Countering-Corruption.pdf.