Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Survey Finds Corruption in Latin America Declining

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Survey results released yesterday suggest corruption in Latin America has abated slightly due to stronger corporate ethics rules and enforcement of anti-corruption laws in the region. Miller & Chevalier and Matteson Ellis Law’s 2012 Latin America Corruption Survey, completed by 439 respondents in 14 countries, found that Chile and Uruguay are perceived to be the least corrupt countries, while Venezuela, followed by Bolivia, Argentina and Mexico, is seen as the most corrupt. Brazil, which has the largest economy in the region, fell somewhat in the middle.

About 51 percent of survey respondents said they had recently lost business to competitors who made illicit payments—slightly down from 57 percent of respondents who said so in 2008. And 75 percent said they were aware of an offender being prosecuted for receiving illicit payments, up from 69 percent in 2008. There was a marked difference between multinational and local/regional companies in their approach toward corruption: 93 percent of respondents from multinationals said their company has taken steps to protect itself from corruption risk, while only 75 percent of respondents from local and regional companies said this was the case.

The report attributes the slight decline of corruption to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which prohibits companies from paying bribes abroad and may have led multinational companies to adopt higher standards. Sixty-four percent of all survey respondents claimed to have extensive or somewhat extensive knowledge of the FCPA. Of respondents whose companies are publicly listed in the U.S. or are affiliates of U.S. multinational companies, just 3 percent think their company is not subject to the law, compared with 30 percent in 2008.

The survey comes on the heels of several high-profile corruption cases in the region, including an investigation into Wal-Mart Mexico for a series of bribery allegations dating back to 2005 and estimated to be worth $24 million.

The survey was administered by U.S.-based law firms Miller & Chevalier Chartered and Matteson Ellis Law PLLC, together with 12 Latin American firms. Three-fifths of the respondents said they worked at a multinational company, while the remaining 40 percent worked at a local or regional company. The survey did not provide a margin of error.

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