Biden orders agencies to step up anti-corruption efforts

President Biden speaks during a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre
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President Biden on Thursday ordered a broad review of anti-corruption efforts across the federal government with the goal of improving U.S. efforts to fight corruption and stop illicit finance globally.

The White House issued a national security study memorandum that declares fighting corruption is a “core United States national security interest” and makes clear the U.S. will lead efforts to combat corruption worldwide, including by increasing transparency around domestic and global financial systems.

Biden is ordering federal agencies including the departments of Treasury, Justice, State, Defense and Commerce to study current anti-corruption efforts and make recommendations about how to bolster the administration’s ability to counter corruption within 200 days. 

In a statement Thursday, Biden described corrupt activities as a threat to democracy and U.S. national security.

“The United States will lead by example and in partnership with allies, civil society, and the private sector to fight the scourge of corruption. But this is a mission for the entire the world. And, we must all stand in support of courageous citizens around the globe who are demanding honest, transparent governance,” Biden said.

“Fighting corruption is not just good governance. It is self-defense. It is patriotism, and it’s essential to the preservation of our democracy and our future,” he said.

The review process will be expansive, involving 15 agencies and offices across the executive branch. The process will be led by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who will report to Biden with recommendations after the 200 days are up.   

The memorandum says that the review should generate a strategy to bolster a wide array of anti-corruption practices, such as punishing those responsible for corrupt behavior through sanctions and other means, promoting anti-corruption partnerships with the private sector, “robustly implementing” laws requiring domestic companies to report their beneficial owners to Treasury and making it more difficult for people to hide money overseas.

A senior administration official told reporters that Biden is following through with a pledge he made on the campaign trail to prioritize anti-corruption efforts and bolster transparency to the U.S. and international finance systems.

“We are really confident that implementation of this directive is going to lead to new and bold and decisive actions to combat corruption around the world,” the official said. “It of course builds upon much that we are already doing.”

The official noted, for instance, that Biden’s budget proposal released by the White House last week asked Congress to increase the funding for a new Treasury program through which U.S. businesses report their beneficial owners. Biden administration officials are also trying to elevate anti-corruption efforts in engagements with other countries, the official said.

Vice President Harris is expected to make anti-corruption efforts a “focus” of her conversations with officials in Guatemala and Mexico on her upcoming trip abroad, the official said. 

Tags Jake Sullivan Joe Biden

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