On 20 November Tina Søreide and Kasper Vagle –both members of the Corruption & Criminal Law Research Group – organized a roundtable conference for corruption experts at the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH), Department of Accounting, Auditing and Law. The conference brought together academics, lawyers, prosecutors, other public officials, and civil society for the sake of debating strengths and weaknesses of Norwegian anticorruption legislation.
The program included presentation of cases that reveal regulatory shortcomings, debates about how well corruption can be detected in Norway, and whether there is a need for reforming parts of the Norwegian legislation. Although Norway ranks well on various international governance indexes, the problem needs to be taken seriously also here. Corruption-resembling practices tend to take a subtle form – as a conflict of interest issue, crony capitalism, or quid pro quo, yet clear-cut bribery exists too. In Norway the term corruption is defined in the penal code. However, even if an act cannot be proven (according to criminal law standards) to be an act of corruption, the act is not necessarily legal or ethical. For Norway, like other countries, it is important to apply the whole range of integrity mechanisms – including auditing and oversight mechanisms, access to information rules, conflict of interest violations, procurement rules, checks and balances in politics, market oversight functions, and civil society – and make sure they serve to combat corruption-resembling practices from different angels.
The conference also addressed negotiated settlements in corporate bribery cases – which is an important theme for the OECD in the coming year. Norwegian prosecutors can offer a corporation accused of bribery a penalty notice (i.e. a fine) and that may be a result of a settlement. However, there are hardly any guidelines for these circumstances and some firms complain that benefits and consequences for those who self-report their bribery is too unpredictable.
The Roundtable conference is a closed-doors meeting and a yearly event at NHH. It is a unique opportunity to have prosecutors and defense lawyers debate regulations and their impacts, and contributes to raise awareness of shortcomings in the Norwegian legislation and enforcement systems across a diverse group of individuals. The participants are all experts in position to use and influence the Norwegian anticorruption legislation.