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Nonstate Actors and Compliance with International Agreements: An Empirical Analysis of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention

  • Nathan M. Jensen and Edmund J. Malesky

International relations scholarship has made great progress on the study of compliance with international agreements. While persuasive, most of this work has focused on states’ de jure compliance decisions, largely excluding the de facto behavior of nonstate actors whose actions the agreement hopes to constrain. Of particular interest has been whether the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (ABC) might reduce the propensity of multinational corporations (MNCs) to bribe officials in host countries through its mechanisms of extraterritoriality and extensive peer review. Unfortunately, research is hampered by reporting bias. Since the convention raises the probability of investors’ punishment for bribery in their home countries, it reduces both the incentives for bribery and willingness to admit to the activity. This generates uncertainty over which of these incentives drives any correlation between signing the convention and reductions in reported bribery. We address this problem by employing a specialized survey experiment that shields respondents and reduces reporting bias. We find that after the onset of Phase 3 in 2010, when the risk of noncompliance increased for firms subject to the OECD-ABC, those MNCs reduced their actual bribery relative to their nonsignatory competitors.

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