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Impact governance and management: Fulfilling the promise of capitalism to achieve a shared and durable prosperity

Capitalism has provided unprecedented wealth and prosperity around the world, but a growing community is raising concerns about the social responsibilities of for-profit corporations. The change in public opinion has become evident in new practices among both workers and consumers: more than ever before, the public supports businesses that work for positive social change and sustainable development. These new attitudes have begun to take root in corporations themselves, with a growing community of investors, business leaders, and entrepreneurs expressing a social duty for capitalist enterprises to be a force for good. However, businesses seeking to harness these opportunities face significant institutional and normative barriers to achieving their missions.

In a new paper, B Corps co-founders Andrew Kassoy, Bart Houlahan, and Jay Coen Gilbert write about the rapidly growing community of responsible businesses, the B Corporation Movement, and how these corporations can overcome these barriers and maximize their social impacts. These certified benefit corporations are able to play a leadership role in making this cultural shift meaningful and lasting by demonstrating and creating pathways for others to others to adopt effective impact governance structures and management systems. The impact and sustained development of the B Corporation Movement will be maximized through the unique roles played by research institutions, the media, policy-makers, investors, and the general public. With enough support, this movement may soon transform shareholder capitalism into stakeholder capitalism, in which social responsibility stands at the forefront of business.

Downloads

  • Download the paper

Authors

  • Andrew Kassoy
  • Bart Houlahan
  • Jay Coen Gilbert

[…]

In the marijuana industry, size doesn’t always matter

A bag of marijuana being prepared for sale sits next to a money jar at BotanaCare in Northglenn, Colorado, December 31, 2013. Proprietors of the first marijuana retailers licensed to sell pot for recreational use in Colorado, including BotanaCare, were busy rolling joints and stocking shelves with their leafy merchandise on Tuesday, ahead of a New Year's Day grand opening. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

In the marijuana reform conversation, one of the grandest boogeymen is “Big Marijuana.” Reform advocates, opponents of marijuana legalization, patients, consumers, media, and many others worry openly that the marijuana industry will consolidate into a corporate beast and a bad market actor reminiscent of Big Tobacco companies.

In a paper released earlier this month entitled, “Worry about bad marijuana—not Big Marijuana,” Jonathan Rauch and I engage the likelihood and risks of the emergence of such a corporate entity. Although the paper makes several points, we begin with a discussion of exactly what “Big Marijuana” means. What we find is that the concept is tossed around so frequently, assigned to so many different types of market actors, that it has ultimately lost meaning.

Often, the term is used to describe any large corporate entity or consolidation effort within the marijuana industry. In reality, standard corporate consolidation or the existence of large companies in an industry are basic aspects in capitalism. What’s more there are huge differences between marijuana industry actors today and Big Tobacco companies of the middle of the 20th century—in terms of size, scope, and market power to name a few. It should be expected that an industry that is young, fractured, and rapidly maturing will endure periods of consolidation and in the process, large and successful corporate entities will emerge. One should not assume, however, that such behaviors are sinister, suspect, or intent on engaging in immoral or illegal activities.

Nor should one assume that only large corporate entities can engage in bad behaviors. They surely can, but other market actors may as well. The policy conversation around marijuana industry structure often holds Big Marijuana up as the actor who will bring problems for enforcement, diversion, sale to minors, sale to problem users, etc. The reality is that a marijuana entity of any size can behave in many of those behaviors. The problem with an unending focus on industry structure or corporate size is that policymakers and regulators can give a pass to smaller actors who may engage in the types of behaviors people inside and outside of industry seek to avoid—those same types of behaviors we saw from the tobacco industry.

We argue there is a more sensible, safer step forward that begins with a simple premise. There are certain outcomes that the marijuana industry must avoid, and policy and regulation should preferably ban, but at least disincentivize those outcomes. We mention a few in the paper: antisocial marketing (marketing to children or problem users), regulatory capture, outcomes that hurt medical marijuana patients, and increasing barriers to entry and corporate crowd out—but others like diversion, illegal sales, and more must (and do) concern policy makers. In some cases, certain behaviors are more likely to come from larger corporate entities, but many behaviors can happen, independent of firm size.

There are a variety of ways to avoid some of these outcomes beyond a focus on firm size and corporate consolidation. Some of those options are highlighted by the RAND Corporation’s Drug Policy Research Center. In “Options and Issues Regarding Marijuana Legalization,” the authors argue a shift away from the corporate model—either through the use of non-profit entities or government operation of whole portions of the market (supply, retail, or both) can have real benefit. These approaches can allow regulators greater control over negative market actions and induce incentives focused on public health and good governance, rather than profit maximization. Those arguments are quite convincing, but as states continue to construct medical and recreational marijuana programs using the corporate model, it is important to consider policy approaches within that existing framework.

Thus, we recommend that regulators and policy makers not primarily focus on firm size, corporate consolidation, or the corporatization of the marijuana industry. Instead, they should work to avoid specific outcomes they see as unwanted or bad and pass laws, promulgate regulations, conduct information and education campaigns, and take whatever actions are necessary to stop them in their tracks. At the end of the day, one thing is clear: no one wants “Bad Marijuana” regardless of whether it comes from Big, Small, or Otherwise-Sized Marijuana.

Click through to read the full report, “Worry about bad marijuana—not Big Marijuana.”

Click through to watch the public event and paper release “Big Marijuana: How corporations and lobbies will shape the legalization landscape.”

Authors

  • John Hudak

Image Source: © Rick Wilking / Reuters […]

De Panama à Londres : agir contre la corruption légale et illégale au sommet anticorruption du Royaume-Uni

Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi - Protestors take part in a demonstration calling on Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to resign after two members of his government were named in the Panama Papers leak scandal, outside the office of the Prime Minister in Valletta, Malta, April 10, 2016.

La fuite des informations du cabinet juridique Mossack Fonseca dans l’affaire des ” Panama Papers a fait et fera la une des journaux pendant des semaines à fur et à mesure de la révélation de nouveaux noms des personnes impliquées. Le scandale a placé le Panama sur le devant de la scène et a donné un aperçu inédit du monde de l’argent caché et de l’évasion fiscale. Afin de mieux saisir le contexte général, il est important de faire la distinction entre la corruption légale, révélée par l’affaire des ” Panama Papers et la corruption illégale, exposée par le scandale Unaoil. Le moment est venu pour les gouvernements de prendre des mesures radicales contre l’une et l’autre.

Les États-Unis, le Royaume-Uni et plusieurs autres pays annonceront leurs engagements pour lutter contre la corruption lors du sommet anticorruption le 12 mai, dont le Premier ministre David Cameron affirme qu’il changera la donne. La question est de savoir si ces engagements se traduiront par des mesures concrètes à l’égard des types de corruption les plus coûteux qui, aujourd’hui, se prolifèrent à l’échelle mondiale.

Malheureusement, le monde s’engage souvent dans des sommets, riches en communiqués, en appels à la coordination et à l’échange d’informations. Parfois, ces sommets mettent en place une initiative inefficace supplémentaire : donnant l’opportunité de créer et promouvoir des articles et photos qui servent les objectifs politiques précis de certains leaders politiques. Voyons si ce sommet sera diffèrent.

Au-delà du Panama

Le cabinet juridique Mossack Fonseca et son pays respectif, le Panama, ne sont que deux éléments dans le vaste et complexe ensemble de ” facilitateurs de la corruption et de l’évasion fiscale à l’échelle mondiale.

Pour ceux qui sont à la recherche de refuges discrets et de sociétés-écrans, la puissante nation des États-Unis (qui sans surprise n’apparaît pas beaucoup dans les Panama Papers) est une des destinations les plus attrayantes du monde : par example, dans l’état du Delaware la loi requiert moins de documents pour établir une société-écran que pour obtenir un permis de conduire. Comme on le voit dans l’illustration ci-dessous, c’est cette opacité, conjuguée à la taille du refuge qu’offrent les États-Unis, qui met le pays à la troisième place des juridictions les plus secrètes parmi une centaine évaluée par l’indice d’opacité financière (FSI). Le Panama est à la treizième place.

Illustration 1 : Indice d’opacité financière 2015 (Juridictions sélectionnées, d’après le réseau pour la justice fiscale)

 Figure 1: Financial Secrecy Index 2015 (Select jurisdictions, from the Tax Justice Network)

Source : Indice d’opacité financière du Réseau pour la justice fiscalehttp://www.financialsecrecyindex.com/introduction/fsi-2015-results

Ce graphique présente les 40 juridictions les moins performantes ainsi que quatre juridictions choisies pour leurs meilleurs résultats (à droite des pointillés). L’indice présente un score de secret qualitatif basé sur une quinzaine d’indicateurs et une mesure quantitative de l’importance d’une juridiction dans les exportations de services financiers à l’échelle mondiale.

Le Royaume-Uni est un important facilitateur de corruption : il n’a engagé aucune action contre ses juridictions et protectorats d’outre-mer qui servent de refuge aux richesses illicites, comme le démontrent clairement les ” Panama Papers. Les Iles Vierges britanniques, par exemple, est le lieu préféré de milliers de sociétés-écrans établies par Mossack Fonseca.

Au-delà des refuges fiscaux

L’affaire des ” Panama Papers ne concerne qu’indirectement les aspects essentiels de la question de la corruption mondiale, qui ne sont liés ni au Panama ni à la fiscalité. Nous devons envisager les scandales suscités sous un angle plus large et reconnaître les immenses et complexes réseaux de la corruption, qui lient de plus en plus les élites économiques et politiques mondiales.

La grande corruption

Les puissants individus qui s’engage dans la corruption à haut niveau, c’est-à-dire la corruption à large échelle ne sont pas inquiétés par l’affaire des ” Panama Papers. On trouve parmi ces individus des dirigeants kleptocrates ainsi que des oligarques qui exercent une influence majeure sur les affaires gouvernementales. Souvent, ces acteurs interagissent et s’associent, en formant des réseaux public-privé très puissants qui font passer pour un jeu d’enfant la définition traditionnelle de la corruption comme étant une transaction illégale entre deux parties.

Dans ces réseaux élitistes, la corruption excède largement le comportement immoral du fraudeur type, puisqu’elle utilise l’abus de pouvoir pour accumuler biens et pouvoir, souvent par le pillage direct des ressources publiques, la confiscation d’actifs ou la corruption à grande échelle. Le scandale à plusieurs milliards de dollars qui touche le géant pétrolier Petrobas au Brésil illustre la complexité de ces réseaux d’entente, et les moyens avec lesquels, la corruption à large échelle peut provoquer des dégâts politiques et économiques d’ampleur historique dans un pays.

Le secteur pétrolier offre de nombreux example de corruption à large échelle. Les dirigeants de la société Unaoil, dont un scandale similaire a récemment fait surface, ont sans doute été soulagés par l’affaire des ” Panama Papers Unaoil est une société monégasque ” facilitatrice de droit qui a versé des pots-de-vin et influencé des responsables gouvernementaux dans différents pays pour le compte de compagnies multinationales se disputant de juteux contrats d’approvisionnement. Bien qu’éclipsé par l’affaire du Panama, le cas d’Unaoil est aussi emblématique les enjeux inhérents à la lutte contre la corruption mondiale. Il illustre par exemple la pratique fortement enracinée des responsables gouvernementaux irakiens qui demandent des dessous de table en échange de l’attribution de contrats, ainsi que l’empressement des entreprises à verser ces pot-de-vin.

Les élites corrompues, notamment celles qui sont impliquées dans le scandale Unaoil, utilisent souvent des structures telles que les sociétés-écrans et les paradis fiscaux (et les investissements immobiliers ou autres) pour dissimuler leur biens mal-acquis. Toutefois, si l’affaire des Panama Papers incite à plus de vigilance sur les flux financiers illicites et engendre la réforme de ces structures financières opaques, la corruption à large échelle se poursuivra dans nombreux endroits. Il est à noter que les retombées politiques se sont concentrées dans des pays relativement bien gouvernés, qui ont instauré des systèmes anticorruptions et de responsabilisation, comme en témoignent les démissions du Premier ministre islandais, du ministre de l’industrie espagnol et du dirigeant de la section chilienne de Transparency International.

En revanche, le président Vladimir Poutine a balayé d’un revers de la main les fuites d’information sur la Russie, les considérant comme une conspiration occidentale contre sa personne. En Chine, le débat et la diffusion de ces informations ont été étouffés par la censure des médias ; en Azerbaïdjan, la révélation des détails concernant les intérêts miniers de la famille du président Aliyev ne menace guère sa mainmise sur le pouvoir. Il est à espérer que les réformes découlant de l’affaire du Panama dissuaderont les fraudeurs ainsi que les entreprises et les particuliers aux pratiques immorales de dissimuler leur argent bien mal acquis. Toutefois, les dirigeants corrompus continueront à bénéficier de l’impunité.

Corruption légale et captation de l’État

Les Panama Papers ont mis en lumière le type de corruption qui est sans doute le plus dévastateur et le plus dure à contrecarrer : la corruption légale et la captation de l’État. Partout dans le monde, de puissantes élites économiques et commerciales influencent indûment les lois et les politiques, en redessinant les règles du jeu pour leur propre bénéfice, un phénomène aussi connu sous le nom de ” privatisation de la politique publique et des lois. Une pratique qui génère des revenus exorbitants pour les élites, renforce leur pouvoir et exacerbe les disparités politiques et économiques d’un pays.

Les pays riches en ressources naturelles fournissent de nombreux exemples. En Angola, en République démocratique du Congo, au Nigéria et au Venezuela, par exemple, les élites politiques ont utilisé des sociétés publiques exploitant les ressources naturelles pour servir leur népotisme, souvent – mais pas uniquement – par des moyens légaux.

Dans beaucoup de pays industrialisés, le système fiscal est en lui-même un exemple de captation de l’État. Il est dans l’intérêt des élites de conserver un réseau mondial de sociétés offshore et de paradis fiscaux secrets pour pouvoir dissimuler leur patrimoine – qu’il ait été acquis légitimement ou non. Les preuves d’évasion fiscale aux États-Unis sont révélatrices : selon Zucman, depuis les années 1950, le taux réel de l’impôt sur les sociétés a été réduit de 45 à 15 pour cent, alors que le taux nominal est seulement passé de 50 à 35 pour cent. Et les sociétés américaines font un usage optimal des paradis fiscaux à l’étranger : d’après un nouveau rapport d’Oxfam, les 50 plus grandes multinationales américaines ont rapporté en 2008 que 43 pour cent de leurs revenus réalisés à l’étranger provenaient de cinq paradis fiscaux, représentant seulement 4 pour cent des effectifs étrangers de ces sociétés. En outre, Bourguignon rappelle que les taux d’imposition fédéraux des Américains les plus riches ont diminué de 15 pour cent entre 1970 et 2004.

Le risque de corruption légale aux États-Unis est important, l’argent privé pouvant très facilement influencer les affaires publiques. Suite à l’arrêt Citizen United rendu par la Cour suprême en 2010 [qui permet la participation financière des entreprises aux campagnes politiques], les fonds privés issus de poches bien garnies dirigent de plus en plus les campagnes électorales. Les moyens par lesquels l’argent privé influence les représentants publics pourraient encore se multiplier, si les formes de corruption traditionnellement considérées comme illégales devenaient légales. Selon une décision en instance de la Cour Suprême, il pourrait désormais être légal pour les responsables publics d’accepter les dons en nature des particuliers (ce qui pourrait annuler la condamnation d’un ancien gouverneur de l’État de Virginie accusé précisément de ce délit).

Quelles mesures prendre ?

En Bref, Il n’y a pas de solutions simple et directe, d’autant plus que les décideurs tirent profit de ce statu quo. Mais l’opportunité de réforme et la pression publique sont actuellement présentes. Comme nous l’avons évoqué, la question de la lutte contre la corruption entraîne souvent des mesures symboliques et l’annonce par David Cameron d’une nouvelle agence mondiale anticorruption pourrait très bien tomber dans cette catégorie. Les pays comme les États-Unis et le Royaume-Uni devraient plutôt prendre des mesures concrètes pour réformer leurs propres pratiques et pousser leurs partenaires à faire de même, qu’il s’agisse des dépendances de la Couronne et des territoires britanniques d’outre-mer, de l’Union européenne et des membres du G20 ou des bénéficiaires d’une aide internationale.

Premièrement, il faudrait prendre la corruption légale et la captation de l’État au sérieux

La transparence peut changer les règles du jeu, particulièrement si elle s’attaque aux réseaux d’influence par lesquels la politique se ” privatise. La divulgation des contributions financières aux campagnes électorales, des conflits d’intérêts, des avoirs détenus par les hommes politiques et les responsables publics (et de leurs avis d’impôts), des délibérations et votes parlementaires sont autant de moyens d’éviter les abus et de révéler les réseaux cachés qui sont à l’œuvre. La publication récente de la première salve de l’Organisation de Coopération et de Développement Economiques (OCDE) est encourageante : son rapport ” Le financement de la démocratie, s’attache à quelques études de cas. La suite logique serait d’habiliter l’organisation à développer des normes et mener des évaluations sur le financement politique de tous les pays de l’OCDE.

La transparence ne sera utile que si les citoyens peuvent mener un examen attentif de leurs gouvernements et dialoguer avec eux. L’espace civique est en danger dans de nombreuses juridictions où les activistes et les journalistes sont la cible d’intimidations, de poursuites, voire pire. Garantir la liberté d’expression et de réunion devrait être l’affaire de tout acteur international concerné par la lutte contre la corruption ou la gouvernance économique. Par exemple, lors de l’examen des demandes de financement de gouvernements ayant un piètre bilan en matière de protection de la société civile – comme c’est le cas de l’Angola et de l’Azerbaïdjan – la Banque Mondiale et le Fonds Monétaire International, ainsi que les donateurs comme les États-Unis, devraient privilégier la responsabilisation citoyenne et des réformes de transparence plus ambitieuses.

En outre, la corruption à large échelle ne s’évincera pas en l’absence de poursuites ou d’autres sanctions efficaces contre ceux qui se laissent corrompre ou contre les facilitateurs et les intermédiaires de la corruption qu’ils soient avocats, comptables ou entremetteurs comme Unaoil. Bien sûr, les autorités chargées d’appliquer la loi doivent aussi rester vigilantes vis-à-vis des sociétés qui versent les pots-de-vin et à cet égard, les gouvernements – notamment les membres de l’OCDE instaurant, à des degrés divers, la Convention de l’OCDE sur la lutte contre la corruption – feraient bien d’imiter la mise en œuvre effective de la loi américaine sur la corruption dans les transactions à l’étranger (FCPA). Mais les individus corrompus et les facilitateurs n’ont pas été suffisamment surveillés et sanctionnés.

Deuxièmement, il faudrait se débarrasser des zones d’ombre.

Les leçons tirées des événements récents, de la crise financière de 2008 à l’affaire des Panama Papers, indiquent que les principaux acteurs internationaux ne devraient pas permettre que de vastes fractions de l’économie mondiale échappent à un examen attentif. Les États-Unis et le Royaume-Uni (et ses territoires d’outre-mer) devraient répondre aux appels à mettre fin à l’opacité et aux paradis fiscaux. Quelques premières tentatives émergent, telle que la décision du gouvernement américain demandant aux banques de révéler l’identité des individus se cachant derrière les sociétés-écrans. Des mesures plus ambitieuses seront toutefois nécessaires, ceci comprend des dispositions législatives.

La transparence sur la propriété réelle doit devenir une procédure opérationnelle standard, avec des États qui suivent l’exemple du Royaume-Uni, des Pays-Bas et d’autres pays qui ont établi des registres publics et soutiennent le projet d’un registre mondial. Quant aux pays riches en ressources naturelles, un bon point de départ serait d’établir des registres spécifiques au secteur. Cette pratique est maintenant imposée par l’Initiative pour la Transparence dans les Industries Extractives.

Au sein du secteur extractif, les gouvernements des pays d’accueil devraient soumettre les négociants de matières premières à des exigences de divulgation des paiements lorsqu’ils font affaire avec les gouvernements et les entreprises publiques. Les gouvernements de pays comme la Suisse, le Royaume-Uni et Singapour, qui abritent des acteurs du monde de l’entreprise, ont une lourde responsabilité, particulièrement dans le contexte actuel de faible prix des matières premières, où les négociants concluent de nouveaux contrats profitables avec des pays producteurs de ressources à court d’argent. Eclaircir telles zones d’ombre les rendra moins vulnérables aux abus.

Troisièmement, il faudrait donner la priorité à la transparence et au contrôle lors de l’allocation de ressources publiques.

Lorsqu’un gouvernement attribue des ressources pour l’exploitation, il doit le faire de façon tout à fait transparente. L’initiative Open Contracting Partnership a fait de grandes avancées dans la définition d’une norme de référence pour de telles informations, notamment en matière d’orientation sur les questions de l’ouverture des données, des identificateurs des sociétés et de la propriété réelle.

Les recherches sur la corruption dans les secteurs pétrolier et minier menées par le Natural Resource Governance Institute montrent que de multiples allocations à forte valeur nécessitent un examen attentif et une divulgation du contrat. Elles comprennent l’attribution des permis d’exploration et de production, mais aussi des droits d’exportation, d’importation ou de transport, qui ont été associés à la corruption dans des pays comme l’Indonésie, la République du Congo et l’Ukraine. La plupart des affaires liées au secteur pétrolier et portées devant les tribunaux dans le cadre de la FPCA aux États-Unis ont surgi à l’occasion de l’attribution de marchés de service, un segment de l’industrie pétrolière qui concernait également les scandales Unaoil et Petrobras. La transparence devrait être le ” paramètre par défaut de toute transaction allouant des ressources publiques. Il est nécessaire d’exercer un contrôle supplémentaire des régimes de taux de change mis en œuvre et abusifs, qui génèrent des revenus pour quelques-uns et engendrent des disparités économiques majeures, comme c’est le cas actuellement au Nigeria, au Venezuela et en Égypte.

Pour espérer un impact réel, il faudra aussi s’attaquer frontalement au principe d’impunité, puisque la transparence et la liberté d’expression sont certes nécessaires, mais insuffisantes. Et les Etats, y compris les États-Unis et le Royaume-Uni, devront adopter des réformes pour lutter contre la corruption légale et l’opacité sous toutes ses formes, que ce soit en s’attaquant à la mainmise de l’argent en politique ou aux ” zones d’ombre entourant les négociants pétroliers installés à Genève et Londres.

Un engagement ambitieux à lutter contre la corruption et l’impunité n’est pas seulement une nécessité actuelle, mais aussi une revendication de nos sociétés, comme l’ont montré les événements au Brésil et ailleurs. Ce pourrait être le moment décisif de faire de réelles avancées à l’échelle mondiale.

This piece is also available in English and Spanish.

Authors

  • Daniel Kaufmann
  • Alexandra Gillies

[…]

From Panama to London: Legal and illegal corruption require action at the UK anti-corruption summit

Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi - Protestors take part in a demonstration calling on Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to resign after two members of his government were named in the Panama Papers leak scandal, outside the office of the Prime Minister in Valletta, Malta, April 10, 2016.

The leaked information in the Panama Papers from the law firm Mossack Fonseca has captured the headlines for weeks and will continue to do so as further names are exposed. The scandal has placed Panama in the limelight and provided an unprecedented glimpse into the world of hidden money and tax avoidance. To understand its broader context, it is vital that we distinguish between legal corruption, like that exposed by the Panama Papers, and illegal corruption, like that exposed by the Unaoil scandal. Governments must seize the moment to take decisive action against both.

The U.S., the U.K., and a range of other countries will announce commitments to combat corruption at the Anti-Corruption Summit on May 12, championed by Prime Minister David Cameron as a game-changing event. The question is whether these commitments will deliver concrete actions that target the most costly kinds of corruption that flourish globally today.

Unfortunately, the world often engages in “summitry” filled with communiques, calls for coordination and exchanging information, or creating another toothless generic initiative, which offer media and photo opportunities that fulfill particular political objectives for some leaders. Let us see if it’s different this time.

Beyond Panama

Mossack Fonseca, and its home country Panama, are just a couple nodes in the vast and complex set of “enablers” of corruption and tax evasion around the world.

For those seeking secret shelters and corporate shells, the mighty U.S. (which unsurprisingly doesn’t feature much in the Panama Papers) is one of the world’s most appealing destinations: Setting up a shell corporation in Delaware, for instance, requires less background information than obtaining a driver’s license. As seen in the chart below, this opacity, coupled with the size of the U.S. as a haven, means that it has been ranked the third most secretive jurisdiction among close to 100 assessed by the Financial Secrecy Index. Panama is 13th.

Figure 1: Financial Secrecy Index 2015 (Select jurisdictions, from the Tax Justice Network)

 Figure 1: Financial Secrecy Index 2015 (Select jurisdictions, from the Tax Justice Network)

Source: The Tax Justice Network’s Financial Secrecy Index http://www.financialsecrecyindex.com/introduction/fsi-2015-results

This graph depicts the top 40 worst performing jurisdictions as well as four select better performing jurisdictions (right of dashed line). The Index combines a qualitative secrecy score based on 15 indicators and a quantitative measure of a jurisdiction’s share in global financial services exports.

And the U.K. is an important enabler of corruption: It has stood by as its offshore jurisdictions and protectorates operate as safe havens for illicit wealth, which the Panama Papers make clear. The British Virgin Islands, for example, were the favored location for thousands of shell companies set up by Mossack Fonseca.

Beyond tax shelters

The Panama Papers speak only indirectly to core aspects of today’s global corruption challenge, which are neither about Panama nor taxes. We ought to view the resulting scandals in a broader light, and recognize the immense, complex webs of corruption that increasingly link economic and political elites around the globe.

Grand corruption

The most powerful figures who engage in high-level or “grand” corruption are hardly running scared following the Panama leak. These figures include kleptocrat leaders as well as oligarchs who wield enormous influence on government affairs. Often, these players interact and collude, forming high-powered public-private networks that make the traditional notion of corruption as an illegal transaction between two parties look like child’s play.

Corruption in these elite networks far transcends the unethical behavior of the typical tax avoider, as it involves the abuse of power to accumulate power and assets, often via the direct plunder of public resources, asset stripping, or large-scale bribery. The multi-billion-dollar scandal embroiling the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras illustrates the complexity of colluding networks, and how grand such corruption can inflict political and economic damage of historical proportions on a country.

The oil sector provides many more illustrations of grand corruption. Few company officials may have been more relieved by the Panama Papers leak than those at Unaoil, whose own scandal had just erupted. Unaoil is an “enabler” company incorporated in Monaco that bribed and influenced government officials in various countries on behalf of multinational companies vying for lucrative procurement contracts. While overshadowed by the Panama leaks, the Unaoil case is at least as emblematic of the challenges in tackling global corruption. For instance, it shows the deeply ingrained practice of Iraqi government officials seeking bribes for the award of contracts and the willingness of companies to provide them.

Corrupt elites, including those embroiled in the Unaoil scandal, often use structures like shell corporations and tax havens (along with real estate and other investments) to hide their ill-gotten funds. However, even if the Panama Papers leak prompts more scrutiny on illicit financial flows and the reform of these opaque financial structures, grand corruption will continue in many locations. It is noteworthy that the political fallout has been concentrated in relatively well-governed countries that do have accountability and anti-corruption systems in place, as illustrated by the resignations of the prime minister of Iceland, the industry minister of Spain, and the head of Chile’s Transparency International chapter.

In sharp contrast, President Vladimir Putin brushed off the leaked Russian information as a Western anti-Putin conspiracy; in China, discussion and dissemination were muffled by media censorship; and, in Azerbaijan, exposure of details on President Aliyev’s family mining interests will hardly dent his hold on power. While reforms leading from the Panama leaks will hopefully deter tax dodgers and unethical corporations and individuals from hiding dirty assets, powerful corrupt leaders will continue to enjoy impunity.

Legal corruption and state capture

The Panama Papers shed a sliver of light on the type of corruption that is perhaps most damaging and difficult to tackle: legal corruption and state capture. Around the world, powerful economic and political elites unduly influence laws and policies, shaping the rules of the game for their own benefit, or what has been called the “privatization of public policy and lawmaking.” This generates huge rents for the elite, increases their power, and exacerbates a country’s political and economic inequality.

Resource-rich countries provide many illustrations. In Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and Venezuela, for example, political elites have used state-owned resource companies to serve patronage agendas, often—though not exclusively—through legal means.

In many industrialized countries, an example of state capture is the tax system itself. It is in the interest of elites to safeguard a worldwide network of secret offshore companies and tax havens as places to hide wealth—whether acquired legitimately or illicitly. The evidence on tax avoidance from the U.S. is telling: According to Zucman, since the 1950s the effective rate of corporate tax has decreased from 45 to 15 percent, whereas the nominal rate has only decreased from 50 to 35 percent. And U.S. companies make full use of foreign tax havens: According to a new Oxfam report, the top 50 American multinationals reported in 2008 that 43 percent of their foreign earnings came from five tax havens, accounting for only 4 percent of the companies’ foreign workforces. Further, Bourguignon reports that federal tax rates on the richest Americans fell by 15 percent between 1970 and 2004.

Risks of legal corruption in the U.S. run high because private money can so easily sway public affairs. Following the 2010 Citizen United ruling by the Supreme Court, private funds from deep pockets increasingly dominate the conduct of electoral campaigns. The avenues for private money to influence public officials may widen further, if forms of bribery traditionally considered illegal become legalized. A forthcoming Supreme Court decision could make it legal for public officials to receive gifts and other benefits from private individuals (potentially overturning the corruption conviction of a former Virginia governor for doing exactly that).

What should be done?

Upfront, there are no easy solutions, especially because powerful decision-makers benefit from this status quo. But there is the opportunity, and public pressure, to reform. As mentioned, the cause of tackling corruption often attracts token gestures, and David Cameron’s announcement of a new global anti-corruption agency could be at high risk of falling into this category. Rather, countries like the U.S. and U.K. must take firm action to reform their own practices, and push for the same from their partners such as the U.K. crown dependencies and overseas territories, the European Union and G20 members, and the recipients of overseas aid.

First, take legal corruption and state capture seriously.

Transparency can be one game changer, especially if it addresses the channels of influence through which policy becomes “privatized.” Disclosures of campaign finance contributions, conflicts of interests, assets held by (and tax returns filed by) politicians and public officials, and parliamentary deliberations and votes can all discourage abuse and reveal hidden networks at play. Encouragingly, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently issued their first salvo, the report “Financing Democracy,” focusing on a few selected case studies, and as a next step it should be empowered to develop standards and carry out assessments on political finance for all OECD countries.

Transparency will only help if citizens can actively scrutinize and engage with their governments. Civic space is under attack in many jurisdictions, with activists and journalists facing intimidation, prosecution, or worse. Securing rights of expression and assembly should be the business of any international actor concerned with anti-corruption or economic governance. For instance, when considering funding requests from governments with weak records on protecting civil society—like Angola and Azerbaijan—the World Bank and International Monetary Fund as well as donors like the U.S. should prioritize civic accountability as well as broader transparency reforms.

Furthermore, grand corruption will not decline without more effective prosecutions and other sanctions that target bribe-takers, as well as the facilitators and middlemen of corruption, be they lawyers, accountants, or fixers like Unaoil. Of course, law enforcement authorities should also remain vigilant against bribe-paying companies; and governments—including OECD members implementing to varying degrees the OECD foreign bribery convention—would do well to emulate the active enforcement of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in this regard. But bribe-takers and facilitators have not faced sufficient scrutiny and sanction.

Second, get rid of shadowy corners.

Lessons yielded by recent events from the 2008 financial crisis to the Panama Papers suggest that major global players should not allow large corners of the global economy to escape scrutiny. The U.S. and the U.K. (with its offshores), should heed the calls for dismantling secrecy and tax havens. Seeds of effort, such as the U.S. government’s decision to require banks to know the identities of the individuals behind shell companies, are now coming to light, but broader efforts, including legislation, will also be required.

Beneficial ownership transparency should become standard operating procedure, with governments following the example of the U.K., the Netherlands, and others in setting up public registries, and joining the movement toward a global registry. In the case of resource-rich countries, establishing sector-specific registries may be the right place to start. This practice is now mandated by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

Within the extractive sector, home country governments should subject commodity traders to payment disclosure requirements when doing business with governments and state-owned companies. Governments of countries like Switzerland, the U.K., and Singapore that are home to corporate actors shoulder significant responsibility, especially in the current era of low commodity prices, when traders are entering into profitable new deals with cash-strapped resource-producing countries. Shining light in dark corners like these will render them less susceptible to abuse.

Third, prioritize transparency and scrutiny when public resources are allocated.

Whenever a government allocates resources for exploitation, it ought to do so in a fully transparent fashion. The Open Contracting Partnership has made great strides in defining a gold standard for such reporting, including guidance on issues such as open data, corporate identifiers, and beneficial ownership reporting.

Natural Resource Governance Institute research on oil and mining sector corruption shows that multiple types of high-value allocations require scrutiny and contract disclosure. These include the allocation of exploration and production licenses, but also on export, import, or transport rights, which have been associated with corruption in countries such as Indonesia, the Republic of Congo, and Ukraine. And most of the oil sector cases prosecuted under the U.S. FCPA have arisen around the award of service contracts, a segment of the oil industry where the Unaoil and Petrobras scandals also took place. Transparency should be the default setting for any transactions that allocate public resources. Further scrutiny is also needed on the abuse of (mis-)managed exchange rate regimes that generates rents for the few and creates major economic distortions, such as currently in Nigeria, Venezuela, and Egypt.

Concrete impact will also require a major attack on impunity since transparency and freedom of expression are necessary, but insufficient. And governments including those of the U.S. and the U.K. should adopt reforms to address legal corruption and various forms of opacity—whether addressing the capture by money in politics or the “dark corners” among oil traders headquartered in Geneva and London.

An ambitious commitment to tackling corruption and impunity is not only needed now, but demanded by societies, as events in Brazil and elsewhere show. This is a potentially “game-changing” global moment to make real progress.

Authors

  • Daniel Kaufmann
  • Alexandra Gillies

[…]

Does strong corporate culture create long-term value?

Sears President and CEO Doug Campbell speaks during its annual and special meeting of shareholders in Toronto April 24, 2014. REUTERS/Aaron Harris

In 2005, billionaire hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert acquired a large portion of Sears Holdings, the parent company of Sears and Kmart, among other brands. In 2008, Lampert reorganized the company into 30 autonomous business units that would operate like independent businesses, with their own IT contracts, marketing officers, and most importantly, annual financial statements. The idea was that having each unit compete for resources would drive better decision-making and boost profits overall. The exact opposite happened. The divisions turned against one another, making decisions that benefited their divisions at the expense of others. In the year after Lampert’s acquisition of Sears, the company thrived, but two years later, profits tanked, the share price plummeted, and hundreds of stores were closed. As Jillian Popadak explains in a new paper about corporate culture and firm value, erosion of corporate culture may be to blame.

It’s not the case that decentralization is always bad—some large technology companies take this approach—but in Sears’s case, the reorganization changed the norms and culture for employees, dis-incentivizing collaboration at the expense of the overall firm. Popadak notes that former Sears employees speak to this: they said the change created a “warring-tribes culture” that lacked cooperation, and “the result was confusing to the customer.” Media accounts tell a similar story. Accounts detail managers cutting floor staff to save money, intense rivalries over the space in the weekly circular, resulting in nonsense product combinations, and a paltry one percent investment in capital expenditures. Popadak argues this is an example of how important implicit norms can be when they are working to create value at the company. When the explicit emphasis on performance was introduced, it “overpowered the implicit values to collaborate, satisfy the customer, and not act selfishly.”

How can you tell if a firm’s culture creates long-term value, or even measure something so seemingly unquantifiable? Popadak argues that while corporate governance measures are designed to change the explicit rules at a company, the culture is a set of implicit rules that govern employee behavior: the expectations employees have about what it takes to be successful at the firm. In her paper, Popadak collected millions of reviews from job sites like Glassdoor.com, Payscale.com, and CareerBliss.com by year and firm, and then used the text of the reviews to create measures of firm culture based on six categories: adaptability, collaboration, customer-orientation, detail-orientation, results-orientation, and integrity. She then assessed how these measures changed when a firm underwent a governance change.

Popadak writes of this graphic, “The figure shows that firms with stronger shareholder governance exhibited statistically significant increases in results-orientation but decreases in customer-orientation, integrity, and collaboration in the year following the governance change.” In the short term, a move to results-orientation boosts sales growth and payout in the short term, but in the long term, there are “significant declines in intangible value, customer satisfaction and brand value.” Ultimately, Popadak concludes that sacrificing corporate culture for short-term payoff may not be worth it.

Authors

  • Grace Wallack

Image Source: © Aaron Harris / Reuters […]

The emerging strategy to deal with corporate short-termism

A Wall Street sign is seen in Lower Manhattan in New York, January 20, 2016. Wall Street moved deep into the red on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 hitting its lowest since February 2014 and extending this year's selloff as oil prices continued to plummet unabated. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Last June, Brookings senior fellow Elaine Kamarck and I published a paper laying out the rise of short-term thinking in U.S. corporations. We argued that this trend was bad for the economy, and we suggested policies that would at least slow it down and diminish its effects.

Since then, additional research on short-termism has emerged, and an increasing number of corporate leaders are expressing concern about the trajectory of U.S. firms. Last November, for example, the Boston Consulting Group documented a worrisome decline in the corporate activities and investments designed to discover and nurture future growth opportunities. This turn away from exploratory activities may not immediately affect investors, said the BCG report: in the short term, companies can maintain earnings and shareholder returns by “cutting costs, increasing dividends, and pursuing share buybacks.” (As Kamarck and I showed, this is what is happening across our economy.) But in the long run, BCG researchers found, firms that invest in exploration boost revenues and total returns far faster than do those who are content to exploit their existing lines of business and return most of their earnings to shareholders in the form of dividends and buybacks.

A few days ago, Laurence Fink, the chief executive of the world’s largest investment fund and a long-time foe of short-termism, sent a letter to the heads of S & P 500 companies and large European corporations. He noted that in the twelve months ending September 30 2015, buybacks had risen by 27 percent over the previous year, when buybacks already stood at record levels. “Today’s culture of quarterly earning hysteria,” he declared, is “totally contrary to the long-term approach we need.” And he warned corporate executives that in the absence of well-considered long-term plans for investment and growth, they would expose their firms “to the pressures on investors focused on maximizing near-term profit at the expense of long-term value.”

Many influential investors agree with Fink, and they are joining forces. On February 1, the Financial Times reported that since last summer, the world’s largest asset managers—Warren Buffett, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, and the heads of BlackRock, Fidelity, Vanguard, and Capital Group, among others—have been holding secret meetings to frame proposals that would encourage longer-term investments while reducing friction with shareholders. These proposals, which are reportedly some months away from final agreement and publication, may well involve changes in boards of directors, executive compensation, and shareholder rights.

The summit participants plan to support these changes for the companies in which they invest. Given the pools of funds they control, which amount to many trillions of dollars, their coordinated action may well represent a turning-point in the struggle to reorient corporate strategy toward the long term.

Authors

  • William A. Galston

Image Source: © Mike Segar / Reuters […]

Why IT companies lead on proactive climate action

The Google logo is spelled out in heliostats during a tour of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System

In the months leading up to the 2015 United Nations climate change conference in Paris starting November 30, global businesses have pledged to do their part for proactive climate action. To “capture and catalyze” these commitments, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in conjunction with the government of Peru, launched the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Change (NAZCA). NAZCA is an online portal that showcases commitment to action by companies, investors, cities and subnational regions to address climate change. To date, more than 2,000 companies—from Baosteel Group Corporation to Exxon Mobil Corporation to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing to Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.—have made voluntary commitments to reduce emissions, increase energy use efficiencies and invest in renewable energy sources.

IT sector stands out

Proactive action by businesses to combat global climate change is not new. Over the past decade, businesses have increasingly engaged in voluntary climate action to share best practices, network, promote market mechanisms, and set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Despite this, not all businesses are eager participants. My recent paper on the role of the Global 500 companies in transnational climate governance shows that, after controlling for political economic and institutional factors at the country level, global businesses operating in the information technology (IT) sector are twice as likely as other firms to engage in proactive climate action. Next to the consumer staples sector, the IT sector has the highest share of global companies engaging in proactive climate action compared to the energy, health care, industrials, materials and utilities sectors.

Among the notable IT companies worldwide that have taken proactive climate action, including public disclosures of their carbon emissions, are Apple Inc., Google Inc., Hitachi, Ltd., LG Innotek, Microsoft Corp., Ericsson and Telefonica.

There are several reasons why IT companies are in a better position than other corporations to play a proactive role in climate change mitigation. First, IT companies, as a sector, tend to be wealthier, not only in terms of asset holdings but also profitability. They also employ a larger number of workers than other companies. Large and well-endowed corporations are better able to afford the costly investments necessary for deploying renewable energy and for undertaking carbon emissions management. According to my findings, wealthy corporations that employ a large number of workers have two to four time higher odds of proactive climate action than companies with smaller asset holdings and employee base.

Complementary capabilities

Second, my research also shows that, more often than not, when a company demonstrates a commitment to sustainability through complementary capabilities and competencies, namely investments in environmental R&D and/or certification with the ISO 14001 environmental management standard, the odds are higher that the company also engages in voluntary climate action and carbon disclosure. For example, a larger share of companies in the IT sector (75 percent) are certified with the ISO 14001 environmental management standard than Global 500 companies excluding IT (54 percent). A similar pattern, albeit less pronounced, is also true of investments in environmental R&D by IT companies compared to other global companies (56 percent versus 48 percent).

Wealth endowment and complementary capabilities aside, IT companies are more likely than other Global 500 companies to have an in-house managerial- or executive-level sustainability officer. Close to half of all IT companies have formally created a position of a vice president of sustainability or a chief sustainability officer compared to about 40 percent of other global businesses. These in-house champions of sustainability policies and initiatives play a critical role in helping to align corporate vision and allocate the necessary resources toward sustainability efforts.

Among the world’s largest companies by revenue, Apple Inc. (rank 15th)is a leader in proactive climate action: Apple has pledged to “maintain 100% renewable energy in datacenters… [and] maintain carbon neutrality of purchased electricity for U.S. corporate facilities achieved in 2014 through renewable energy purchases and onsite generation and procurement.” In 2014, Apple hired Lisa Jackson, a former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as its vice president of environmental, policy, and social initiatives, reporting directly to CEO Tim Cook. Along with Jacky Haynes, Apple’s senior director of social and environmental responsibility who specializes in supplier responsibility, Jackson has brokered a relationship with the Beijing-based Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs to train Apple facilities workers as part of Apple’s new Environmental, Health, and Safety Academy and to proactively publish emissions data of Apple’s supplier facilities in China. By committing to voluntary climate action, Apple and other corporations signal to consumers that they are socially responsible companies, not only to preempt public scrutiny but to gain an advantage in the “market for virtues.”

Apple and Microsoft Corp. are the only two private sector entities that earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Green Power Partner of the Year award in 2015, which recognizes leadership in green power use and overall strategy and impact on the green power market.

Other IT companies, such as Autodesk, BT, Infosys, Salesforce and SAP have recently joined forces with Aviva, IKEA, Starbucks, Walmart, Marks and Spencer, Johnson & Johnson, among others, as part of RE100, a collaborative initiative of businesses, to set long-term target on powering their operations entirely with renewable energy.

Living up to promises

The fact that so many companies are recognizing the dangers of climate change and setting ambitious climate action goals is laudable. The biggest challenge will be seeing that they live up to their promises, especially given the voluntary nature of initiatives such as NAZCA. To thwart greenwashing, national governments and global governance organizations have an important role to play to keep the IT sector and other businesses accountable. The first step that NAZCA has taken is to invite “partnerships with others who would…make assessments of this type.” A significant next step would be to publish guidelines and best practices for third-party monitoring and verification in order to strengthen the link between pledges for proactive action and ultimate follow-through by corporations. IT companies, as leaders in proactive climate action, should be at the forefront of working to establish best practices for adherence to voluntary commitments for mitigating global climate change.

Authors

  • Lily Hsueh

Image Source: © Steve Marcus / Reuters […]

Five questions about the VW scandal

Bernd Osterloh, head of Volkwagen's works council, addresses a news conference at the company's headquarters in Wolfburg, Germany October 6, 2015. Osterloh said on Tuesday the diesel emissions scandal that has hammered the company's stock and reputation, would impact earnings at the core autos division as well as bonus payments to workers.

Now that that the initial revelations regarding the VW scandal have sunk in it’s time to begin assessing the larger significance of those revelations. While the case and, we predict, VW, will continue for years (we are only at the end of the beginning, and far from the beginning of the end), we are far enough along to see five large questions emerging. These questions will tell us much about the economic, corporate and cultural future of VW and German enterprise.

1) VW was an integral component of Germany’s industrial reputation in Europe, across the Atlantic in the United States, and around the world. Now, that hard-won reputation is at risk. How broad will the damage be to German businesses’ reputation not just for quality, but for “premium quality?”

2) Turning from the German business sector to the German economy as a whole, the VW scandal has many ironies, not least of which is that the company was a key driver (so to speak) of the famous German Wirthschaftswunder. Economic health propelled a vanquished Germany to the forefront of Europe’s post-WWII recovery and then made post-Cold War reunification a success. Does the VW scandal have the potential to slow down the overall growth of the German economy, and what are the European and global implications of that at a time when the Chinese economy is also sputtering?

3) From a corporate governance perspective, the scandal represents some of the most boneheaded thinking ever. Following disclosure of the fraud, €14bn (£10bn; $15.6bn) was wiped off VW’s stock market value. Whoever knew/orchestrated the scheme thought they would get away with it, but did they really not foresee the consequences or even the likelihood of getting caught? We will long be studying the abnormal “fraud psychology” of this case.

4) Germany ranks among the top ten countries for low corruption according to Transparency International. Yet VW is not alone among German companies in making major headlines with massive ethics failures in recent years, joining Siemens, Bayer, Deutsche Bank, and many others. What does this mean for the future of Germany’s role as a force for anti-corruption at home and internationally?

5) Former VW CEO Winterkorn resigned but claimed he knew nothing about the scandal. What does this say about the structure and management culture of Germany’s largest companies? How widespread is “plausible deniability” in German business culture–and in all business culture everywhere? If so, what are the dangers of this going forward, and what should be done to address them?

Authors

  • Norman Eisen
  • Peter Goldmann

Image Source: © Hannibal Hanschke / Reuters […]

Dodd-Frank at 5: A conversation with Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew

Event Information

July 8, 2015
8:45 AM – 9:30 AM EDT

The Brookings Institution
Falk Auditorium
1775 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20036

Register for the Event

In July 2010, President Obama signed into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a far-reaching and still-controversial piece of legislation that was intended to reduce the odds of a repeat of the worst financial crisis in generations. Five years later, is it working as hoped? Did it go too far—or not far enough? Are there parts that should be revisited? What remains on the U.S. and global financial-stability to-do list?

On July 8, the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy will host a conversation with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to address those and other questions about financial stability and the economy. The event will be live webcast.

Follow the conversation at @BrookingsEcon or #DoddFrank

[…]

LIVE WEBCAST – Dodd-Frank at 5: A conversation with Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew

Event Information

July 8, 2015
8:45 AM – 9:30 AM EDT

The Brookings Institution
Falk Auditorium
1775 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20036

Register for the Event

#DoddFrank Tweets

In July 2010, President Obama signed into law the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a far-reaching and still-controversial piece of legislation that was intended to reduce the odds of a repeat of the worst financial crisis in generations. Five years later, is it working as hoped? Did it go too far—or not far enough? Are there parts that should be revisited? What remains on the U.S. and global financial-stability to-do list?

On July 8, the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy will host a conversation with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to address those and other questions about financial stability and the economy. The event will be live webcast.

Follow the conversation at @BrookingsEcon or #DoddFrank

[…]