Time to act

Author: | Published: 1 Sep 2007

The US has taken on the role of the world's policeman in the fight against corruption. Its extraterritorial reach is immense and its officials are not content with just putting Americans behind bars; they will also go after suspects living and working abroad.

The US legal system is so efficient at prosecuting suspects, and imposing hefty sentences and fines on those found guilty, that unprecedented numbers of companies and individuals are handing themselves in and striking plea bargains to minimize their punishment.

The result is a big increase in investigations and prosecutions in the US. Between 1977 and 2006, the Department of Justice brought 43 criminal prosecutions under the Foreign Corruption Practices Act (FCPA). By the second half of 2006 there were already reported to be more than 40 open investigations, most of them likely to end in prosecution.

The US is only just getting into its stride, and until...