Why civil actions against corruption?

Simon N.M. Young (Centre for Comparative and Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong)

Journal of Financial Crime

ISSN: 1359-0790

Publication date: 8 May 2009



The purpose of this paper is to identify and examine motivating factors for why public and private actors initiate costly and risky civil actions to recover loss due to corruption in an era of increasing multilateral consensus and cooperation against corruption and organised crime.


Research into recent global trends and types of civil lawsuits against corruption is conducted. Several cases, particularly from Canada, Hong Kong, the USA and the UK, are used to illustrate the attractions and difficulties of civil litigation. The implications of the recent international treaties on corruption are analyzed. Qualitative findings are made on a range of motivational factors that lie behind different types of civil actions against corruption.


The paper notes an apparent rise in interest in civil actions against corruption and describes five types of actions brought by governments and companies. Civil actions are indicative of the want of better alternatives to recovery. While recent anti‐corruption treaties help to remove barriers to civil actions, the treaties themselves cannot explain the increased interest in civil lawsuits. Full explanation lies in the empowering effect of suing, the political significance of these lawsuits particularly for a new regime suing to recover plundered property from the old regime, and the ease by which a lawsuit can be launched.


This paper contributes to the literature in identifying types of civil actions against corruption, the practical and political motivations behind civil actions, and the positive relationship between international cooperation regimes and civil actions.



Young, S. (2009), "Why civil actions against corruption?", Journal of Financial Crime, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 144-159. https://doi.org/10.1108/13590790910951821

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