The UK Bribery Act makes it illegal to bribe a foreign official.
But why on earth would a government ever introduce legislation that disadvantages its own companies, undermining their comparative advantage?
No country wanted to unilaterally criminalise the bribery of foreign officials, as it would undermine their comparative advantage.
But many governments have since imposed strict legislation.
Cue public outrage.
Business resisted, but had suffered a loss in legitimacy.
Plus, the Government was sympathetic - Jimmy Carter.
So in 1977, the USA introduced the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,
Making it illegal to bribe a foreign official.
They found a sympathetic ear, deregulating Reagan.
The FCPA was weakened a little..
But by the 1990s, businesses realised the FCPA was here to stay.
So instead of trying to weaken it, they changed tack.
What did they do?
They pushed for a level playing field.
The USA championed the @OECD Anti-Bribery Convention (1997).
And it enforced its own legislation on companies FROM OTHER COUNTRIES.
You'll recall the Saudi Arms deal, BAE Systems, cover-up, and termination of investigations. HUGE revelations of corruption and cover-up (like Watergate).
Domestic condemnation, and also rebuke from OECD, as the UK slipped down ranking
outrage + sympathetic centre-left government + shift in norm perceptions + international condemnation from OECD
--> UK BRIBERY ACT! (2010)
In France, businesses no longer wanted to be tried in US courts (under FCPA), so actually supported Sapin II (a French law on transnational bribery).
Australia is now considering introducing a law just like the UK's!!
- which is a HUGE change from 1996 when in France and Germany transnational bribery was TAX DEDUCTIBLE!!
Cue global collective action!
But yes, I think the history of the criminalisation of transnational bribery is literally one of the most fascinating, important stories about tackling global collective action problems.