The University of Victoria Faculty of Law will introduce the first law course on global corruption to commence in September.
“This course comes about because of United Nations interest in seeing global corruption courses taught at the university level in law and in business and public administration,” says U Vic law professor Gerry Ferguson.
“The idea is that they should start teaching anti-corruption strategies to the future lawyers, and business people, and politicians of the world, in the hope that it will help reduce corruption,” he explains.
The United Nations formed a committee of academics asking a representative from each country to join, says Ferguson. As part of that committee’s mandate to educate the new generation on global corruption issues, Ferguson decided to create a brand new course called “global corruption: law, theory, and practice.” He hopes it will be emulated by other law schools across the country.
Western University’s law school had the same idea and will also teach a similar course for the first time starting in January 2016.
“I think it’s long overdue. I’ve been practising in the area for a number of years now and I can tell you that any new lawyer that’s going to be coming out and practising in business law, or with an NGO, or with the government and are going to be involved in international transactions, or dealings with other countries, they are going to run into this issue,” says trade lawyer John Boscariol, who will be teaching the anti-corruption course at Western.
“I think it’s becoming as fundamental as contract law, frankly,” he says.
While the United States has had the anti-corruption act in place since 1997, it has ratcheted up enforcement in the last 10 years, which, in turn, has forced increased Canadian action in the area.
“I’m a trade lawyer and, in my area, I see the world getting smaller every day, and Canadian companies are much more aggressive now in doing business abroad,” says Boscariol.
Canadian companies are expanding their scope of business in Latin America, China, and Africa, he notes. While there are a lot of commercial and investment opportunities in these countries, they are also high-risk jurisdictions when it comes to anti-corruption laws.
“With any major business transaction, I am finding — whether it’s financing and acquisition, a merger, an IPO — when the target company has operations, international operations, anti-corruption is a big part of that due diligence,” says Boscariol.
The difficult part of teaching a brand new course is collecting materials needed to educate students effectively.
“I put together this book, which will be published on the United Nations web site,” says Ferguson.
The book should be ready to be published in early September and he hopes it will serve as a guide to teaching the subject.
“It will be available free for anybody who wants to access it through the web site, and they will be able to use it if they want in their own courses. The idea is that, with a set of materials, it will be easier for them to create their own course.”
It took Ferguson almost three years to put together the text. While there has been much written on the topic, he says it was “not organized in a way that you could use it as a course, so the book fills that gap.”
He set the material up according to the two major UN convention requirements, including Convention again Corruption by the United Nations and Convention on the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The book looks at those conventions and then examines what is happening in relation to them in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
“Global corruption is seen as one of the big, big problems for underdeveloped countries where large sums of money is being siphoned off by people, which results in the poor not getting what they should. Money goes into projects where it’s not really needed,” says Ferguson.
The many effects of corruption include difficulties in terms of the impact on the poor and negative effects on the rule of law.
“If some countries are bribing and others are not, it creates a very unequal competition field when it comes to international business,” he notes.