by: Lindsay Bragg
A BYU graduate who works with the Securities Exchange Commission spoke Thursday on “Protecting the Public Interest: International Law and the U.S. Government’s Efforts to Prevent Corruption Abroad.”
J. Troy Beatty is a senior counsel and branch chief for comparative law and regulation for the SEC. The main issue Beatty deals with is the foreign bribes of government officials. The bribery issue is most prevalent in the weapons, energy and transportation fields.
While Americans generally understand bribing to be morally wrong, many cultures fail to see the problem, Beatty said.
“U.S. businesses should not be bribing foreign government officials,” Beatty said. “It’s just not morally right. But corruption has a real world impact.”
The U.S. passed a law in 1977 banning U.S. firms from bribing foreign officials. One of the main problems this caused was the disadvantage at which U.S. firms were placed. From 1994 to 2009, 810 contracts, worth more than $489 billion were awarded as a result of bribery. In the last year alone, U.S. firms lost over $27 million in foreign contracts.
In an attempt to level the playing field, the U.S. government has been encouraging other governments to sign treaties to pass and enforce similar laws. Many governments have these laws but they are forgotten, like the law against fishing from horseback in Utah.
“It doesn’t matter if you have a law,” Beatty said. “If you don’t enforce it, your companies are still going to bribe.”
Because of these alliances, many countries are enforcing anti-bribery laws out of fear of embarrassment.
“Countries care about their reputation,” Beatty said.
Many steps have been made toward eliminating bribery worldwide, but there is still much left to be done.
“Are we there yet?” Beatty asked. “No.”
This is one of the few fields in international relations where the U.S. is extraordinarily reputable.
“We take our obligations very seriously,” Beatty said. “This is one of the few areas where the U.S. is unassailable.”
Beatty’s job requires much travel. He traveled about 150,000 miles last year. He said much of his job takes place outside of the official meeting rooms as well.
“You go out and have a coffee, or maybe some Sprite, with other committee members,” Beatty said jokingly.
Beatty also claimed it to be a rewarding field.
“You get to work on really fun cases and you feel like you are making a difference,” he said.
Beatty joined the SEC staff in 2004 as an attorney in the Office of International Affairs. He is responsible for liaising with the EU and other foreign government officials in Eastern Europe, Russia and Asia to provide advice and analysis concerning securities regulation.
He is a member of the U.S. delegation to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s working group on bribery and played an instrumental role in the negotiation of the recent OECD good practice guidance on internal controls, ethics and compliance.
Beatty received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in international area studies from BYU and a law degree from BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School.