Symposium Assesses Political Corruption in America and Abroad


The Fordham Journal of Corporate and Financial Law’s annual symposium convened a dynamic panel of leading practitioners and scholars on October 21 to discuss how anti-corruption and anti-bribery laws impact American and global political corruption today and will do so in the future.

The event, titled “Political Corruption: Afflicting America and Affairs Abroad,” featured speeches and in-depth panel discussion on the “Political Economy of Corruption” and “Government Investigations Into Corruption,” a pair of topics that have loomed large this year in scandals from New York and New Jersey to Brazil.

The symposium highlighted the leadership of Fordham Law Professors Sean J. Griffith and Caroline Gentile in the areas of banking and finance and also the strength of the journal, Fordham Law Dean Matthew Diller said in his opening remarks. The Fordham Journal of Corporate and Financial Law is the most-cited student-edited journal in banking and finance.

Griffith, the T.J. Maloney Chair in Business Law and director of the Corporate Law Center, and Professor Thomas H. Lee, Leitner Family Professor of International Law and Director of Graduate and International Studies, are researching and writing a paper, titled “The Political Economy of Foreign Anti-Corruption Law,” that grapples with the symposium’s central themes. The paper outlines how a law such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 can exist when it is contrary to business interests that may see bribery as a cost of doing business.

Griffith and Lee’s theory emphasizes the primacy of foreign policy, first in the Cold War and later the War on Terror, on the FCPA’s existence and evolution.

“Once foreign companies with U.S. contacts become enforcement targets they will have an interest in a level playing field similar to U.S. businesses in the 1980s and 1990s,” Griffith predicted.

The ensuing panel discussion examined the Department of Justice’s decision to penalize financial institutions as opposed to individuals in the wake of the 2008 economic collapse, the purpose of tracking bribes in an age of terrorism, and whether anti-bribery laws exist as an altruistic measure or to level the playing field for American corporations.

In addition to Griffith, symposium panelists included Yale Professor Susan Rose-Ackerman; Fordham Law alumnus Timothy Treanor ’95, partner and global co-leader of Sidley Austin LLP’s white-collar criminal defense and investigations practice; Zachary Brez, partner and co-chair of Rope & Gray LLP’s business and securities litigation practice; and Michael J. Cohn, global chief compliance officer and deputy general counsel for Fortress Investment Group LLC. Symposium editor Giselle Sedano ’17 provided introductory and closing remarks.


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