Paul Stephan

Anti-Bribery Law

Oxford University Press


This chapter describes the rise of transborder anti-bribery law in this century against the background of its twentieth-century origins. It focuses on the role of a hegemon, namely, the United States, and the impact of its conduct on other rich-world states. The chapter explores the political economy of transborder anti-bribery law. It considers why states regulate behavior that, as a first-order matter, harms foreigners while enriching domestic firms. It rebuts arguments that altruism and a cosmopolitan sense of justice motivate states. Rather, this regulation, like the earlier anti-cartel actions, can best be explained as an effort to save the system of global markets, international business and investment, and transnational private ordering from itself. States have come to embrace these efforts, but have not sought to enforce them through international law. This approach instead puts the onus on powerful states acting as norm entrepreneurs to promote the rule of domestic law internationally. On balance, the development of anti-bribery law during this century suggests a process of evolutionary adaptation, not revolutionary change and disruption. That transborder anti-bribery efforts have prospered during this period of unrest may indicate something about the resilience of global capitalism, but is not proof of the durability of the liberal international order that existed at the end of the twentieth century.


Paul B. Stephan, Anti-Bribery Law, in David L Sloss Is the International Order Unraveling?, Oxford University Press, 338 (2022).

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