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Corruption: Economic Analysis and International Law by Marco Arnone and Leonardo S Borlini [Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, 2014, 672pp, ISBN 978-1-84-980266-6, £125.00 (h/bk)]

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Corruption: Economic Analysis and International Law by Marco Arnone and Leonardo S Borlini [Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, 2014, 672pp, ISBN 978-1-84-980266-6, £125.00 (h/bk)]

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 October 2016

Stefano Silingardi*
Adjunct Professor of International Law, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia,
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Book Reviews
Copyright © British Institute of International and Comparative Law 2016 

According to a recent research conducted by the World Economic Forum, 67 of 144 States have named corruption as one of the three major obstacles to doing business in their countries. Furthermore, it is estimated that the cost of corruption (in other words, losses caused by the spread of corruption) amounts to more than five per cent of world GDP (or $2.6 trillion).

Although corruption ‘has been ‘ubiquitous’ throughout human history and in all kinds of societies’ (B Buchan and L Hill, An Intellectual History of Political Corruption, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, at 1), there are many economic, cultural, social and even religious factors that still prevent the implementation of an effective global fight against corruption. The first anti-corruption convention at the supranational level was adopted by the European Union in 1997, closely followed by the 1999 OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions and the UN 2003 Convention against Corruption.

The first merit of the late Marco Arnone and Leonardo Borlini book Corruption: Economic Analysis and International Law is the decision to investigate such a complex phenomenon focusing on the relationship between the economic aspect and the legal rules. As the authors note (19) ‘attacking corruption with effective countermeasures requires understanding and targeting its key determinants’. In that perspective, the basic assumption of the book is that the connection of economic analysis with legal rules can shed light on one of the contemporary most sensitive and serious challenges to the rule of law and democratic society.

The book is composed of two parts. Part I, which is devoted to the economic analysis of corruption, is composed of three sections (for a total of seven chapters). In the first section (13–90) the authors investigate the effects of corruption at the micro- and macroeconomic level, as one of the most serious distortions of the competitive well-functioning of regulated markets and in terms of systemic costs caused in national economies. The second section (91–149) is on the impact of corruption on financial markets and instruments (an area that has until now only sporadically and unsystematically been explored by economic doctrine). To this end, the operation of politically connected firms in advanced economies has been taken into account (with a specific focus on the impact of corruption on shares’ return for a sample of 1085 industrial companies belonging to the Eurozone countries in the period 1996–2006), as well as microfinance institutions in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Section 3 (153–79) closes the economic part dealing with the question of the effects of corruption in terms of the erosion of the rule of law and democratic society.

Part II of the book is devoted to the legal analysis of corruption. It is composed of two sections and is entirely due to Leonardo Borlini. The first section (184–216) reports three cases—Oil for Food, TSKJ Consortium and Fininvest—that the authors deem particularly indicative of the ‘pernicious and pervasive effects’ (183) of corruption. The second section is devoted to the analysis of the international anti-corruption legal framework and is made up of nine chapters that could be subdivided into three main groups. Chapter 9 (209–16) provides an explanation of the 1977 US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) since it ‘represents the foundation upon which the subsequent international anti-corruption framework has been built’ (209). Chapter 10 (217–310) first offers a rich overview of the multilateral and regional conventions against corruption actually in force—including the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption, the OECD Convention against Foreign Corruption, the African Union Convention against Corruption, a number of EU Conventions and Directives and the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC)—as well as a number of rules/incentives that have been produced in the last few years by the major IFIs in order to direct and constrain economic agents’ behaviour (such as, for example, the World Bank's Governance and Anticorruption Strategy). As the authors note (311), the idea of the remaining chapters (311–523) is to detect if the current conventions against bribery are effective in balancing the necessity to promote and ease the adoption of a legally binding text with the contrasting aim to ease the harmonization of Contracting States penal legislation. In order to answer that question, the authors provide an in-depth and highly precise analysis of some of the most notable themes of the anti-corruption international legal framework through a horizontal comparison of their characteristics in the different treaties. Among them, some classic topic are addressed—such as criminal liability of legal persons, mutual legal assistance, and the availability of procedures for monitoring the member states’ compliance with the conventions—as well as some of the ‘major and recent breakthrough of the international apparatus against corruption’ (527), such as the proposal of a mechanism for asset recovery.

In conclusion, the accurate and in-depth treatment of both the economic and legal aspects of the current anti-corruption instruments makes this book not only a valuable and important resource for both academic and practitioners interested in deepening their knowledge on the fight against corruption, but also a stimulating starting point to think about a more effective legal strategy. In that perspective, the authors’ position is clear and their warning could not be misunderstood: States must leave the old ties that have traditionally linked law to territory and accept that a ‘more cooperative legal strategy probably represents the most effective response to de-localized criminal phenomena’ (394).