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The Corruption Index: An In-Depth Look at What it Means & How it Relates to FCPA


The Corruption Index: An In-Depth Look at What it Means & How it Relates to FCPA

The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is an index published annually by Transparency International since 1995 which ranks countries “by their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by “expert assessments”  and opinion surveys.

The CPI currently ranks 176 countries “on a scale from 100 (very clean) to 0 (highly corrupt).” Denmark and New Zealand are perceived as the least corrupt countries in the world, ranking consistently high among international financial transparency, while the most perceived corrupt country in the world is Somalia, ranking at 9–10 out of 100 since 2017.

This short video link below provides an overview of the Corruption Perception Index.

One could argue that there could be a direct correlation between the number of FCPA Violations and how high a country ranks on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI).  Upon analysis, there is no such correlation and therefore the reliance by Chief Compliance Officers on the CPI as published each year by Transparency International comes into question

Upon further investigation of the survey developers – Transparency International (TI)  based in Berlin Germany, it becomes clearer why the survey cannot be relied on.

The Corruption Perceptions Index has received criticism over the years. The main one stems from the difficulty in measuring corruption, which by definition happens behind the scenes. The Corruption Perceptions Index, therefore, needs to rely on third-party surveys which have been criticized as potentially unreliable. Data can vary widely depending on the public perception of a country, the completeness of the surveys and the methodology used. The second issue is that data cannot be compared from year to year because Transparency International uses different methodologies and samples every year. This makes it difficult to evaluate the result of the new policies.

Another issue is historically been funded since its inception in 1993 by large multinationals – Exxon/ Mobil,  Shell, and Hedge Fund KKR being the largest donors. One cannot help but question the objectivity of the survey with large private donors. TI’s International Board of Directors reacted to this conflict of interest by stripping its US affiliate – Transparency International USA – of its accreditation as the National Chapter in the United States and it was reported by TI Headquarters that  TI-USA came to be seen in the United States as a corporate front group, funded by multinational corporation given the large donor base.

Secondly, the surveys themselves are conducted by organizations such as Freedom House, which have known biases. In August 2019 whistleblower accounts from seven current and former TI Secretariat staff emerged describing a “toxic” workplace culture under the current Managing Director, Patricia Moreira. Reported in The Guardian, the misconduct reported ranged from gagging orders in termination agreements to bullying and harassment of critical internal voices

Although the Corruption Perception Index remains popular with its audience as it is unveiled each year, it becomes more clear after digging deeper into Transparency International why there \’s not a more robust correlation between FCPA Violations as identified by the SEC and DOJ and the faltered Corruption Perception Index.