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Are there alternatives to court action?

Sometimes pursuing a court claim is not the quickest or most effective way to obtain justice, when you have suffered loss or harm as a result of corruption. Court proceedings often take a long time, and are difficult to pursue without the assistance of lawyers. For this reason, court proceedings can also be expensive.

There are a number of alternatives to court litigation which are worth considering.

In the Going to Court section on “Alternatives to PIL: Negotiation and Mediation” we discuss in detail a number of ways to seek to resolve a dispute without the need for court proceedings. These methods of “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR) can be very effective for many types of civil claim, but they are often less useful for claims which are based on criminal conduct, such as bribery or other forms of corruption. This is because ADR is the most useful when there is a real prospect of both parties admitting fault and agreeing to compromise in order to settle their differences. However, in most countries corrupt acts are punishable by imprisonment and other serious sanctions, and therefore wrongdoers are very unlikely to be prepared to admit culpability.

There are nonetheless a number of alternatives to court actions which are often useful in the context of corruption. We discuss each of them in turn.

1

Reporting corruption by a public official

Generally the first step towards obtaining justice when corruption occurs is to report with the corrupt acts. If the wrongdoing was committed by a public official, you could report it

  • to the superior of the public official
  • to the oversight body of the public official
  • to the country’s anti-corruption agency/commission
  • to the police
  • to other investigative authorities if the wrongdoing has something to do with area of their activities (such as customs investigators and tax investigators)
  • to an agency that provides assistance to whistleblowers, if there is one in your country.

There are advantages of reporting corrupt conduct in this way.

  1. The employer or other entity responsible for the wrongdoer may voluntarily agree to punish the wrongdoer and to compensate you for your losses.
  2. The law enforcement authorities in your country may decide to prosecute the wrongdoer. While this may not result in immediate financial compensation for you, if the prosecution is successful then you may be able to use that court finding in order to bring a civil claim for compensation.
  3. If you report the corrupt conduct to the anti-corruption commission in your country, they may undertake an investigation and bring the wrongdoer to justice, either via a prosecution or by seizing his or her property.
2

Reporting corruption by a private person or company

If the wrongdoing was committed by a private person you could report it

  • to the police
  • to other investigative authorities if the wrongdoing has something to do with area of their activities (such as customs investigators, tax investigators)
  • to the supervisory authorities in the area where the private person is active (such as financial supervisory authority, fair competition authority)

Reporting corruption to any of these authorities, so as to initiate an investigation, is only the first step towards justice – but it is often a necessary and important step. The legal responsibility of the wrongdoer generally needs to be formally established, by a court or state agency, before you can seek any remedy.

3

Other avenues

There are also other avenues to report wrongdoings, though these may not lead to public enforcement processes / public interest litigation.

  • to the owner of the company the wrongdoer is affiliated with, if it is a smaller company.
  • to the board of directors of the company with which the wrongdoer is affiliated.
  • to the board or other high-level forum of the civil society organisation, religious body or trade union with which the wrongdoer is affiliated.
  • to the whistleblower hotline / ethics advisor / ombudsperson of the organisation with which the wrongdoer is affiliated.
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