WASHINGTON – The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is formally establishing the fight against corruption as a core national security interest.
Biden on Thursday issued his first national security memorandum, outlining his anti-corruption agenda.
“Corruption threatens United States national security, economic equity, global anti-poverty and development efforts, and democracy itself,” the president said in his directive. “But by effectively preventing and countering corruption and demonstrating the advantages of transparent and accountable governance, we can secure a critical advantage for the United States and other democracies.”
Biden’s memorandum is important because it serves as a formal notification from the president “that he expects all relevant federal departments and agencies to up their anti-corruption game in very specific ways,” a senior administration official told reporters on a briefing call Thursday.
In part, the memo calls for combatting all forms of illicit finance in the country and with the international financial systems. It calls for American companies to report their beneficial owners to the Treasury Department and reduce offshore financial secrecy.
Treasury’s beneficial ownership registry is intended to effectively bar illicit assets from being hidden behind anonymous shell companies.
“It’s a massive undertaking,” acknowledged the senior administration official, who spoke to reporters on condition of not being named. “We have seen several instances over past years in which the proceeds of corruption have been funneled through shell companies and wound up in major metropolitan areas in the United States to offshore those ill-gotten gains. And so we’re going to be taking additional steps to make sure that that doesn’t happen in the future.”
In the action, the president calls for “corrupt individuals, transnational criminal organizations, and their facilitators” to be held accountable, including by taking criminal enforcement action against them.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Central Intelligence Agency will also be involved in the anti-corruption effort, which will use “all the tools at our disposal to make sure that we identify corruption where it’s happening and take appropriate policy responses,” said a senior U.S. official.
Biden’s memo requests an interagency review to be completed within 200 days with a report and recommendations to be submitted to him for further direction and action.
“The United States will lead by example and in partnership with allies, civil society, and the private sector to fight the scourge of corruption,” said the president in a statement. “But this is a mission for the entire the world. And we must all stand in support of courageous citizens around the globe who are demanding honest, transparent governance.”