140407, WSJ, What is corruption? Only outright bribery?
Wall Street Journal
The Morning Risk Report: Defining Corruption Down Shouldn’t Change Compliance Plans
by Samuel Rubenfeld
A major Supreme Court decision issued last week decided a question of campaign-finance law, but the real issue discussed in the judicial opinions was the definition of what constitutes corruption. The justices struggled with that definition, the Law Blog observed. Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion, said in his ruling “the only type of corruption that Congress may target is quid pro quo corruption. Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to quid pro quo corruption,” he wrote. In other words, the only form of corruption under the law is outright bribery: money in exchange for an official act. Justice Stephen Breyer, in his dissent, wrote that Mr. Roberts’ definition of corruption was “inconsistent with prior case law.”
Without addressing the campaign-finance questions of the case, the concept of banning payments “to control the exercise of…official duties” should sound familiar to anti-corruption watchers, because it’s language taken right from the U.S. criminal code and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, two principal U.S. anti-bribery statutes. Is corruption merely bribery, or is it something more? Activists, politicians, lawyers and others are reacting to the decision. But how are companies and their compliance programs affected by a potentially narrowed definition of corruption?