The Allard Prize and The Case for Public Integrity

Peter Allard is heir to a fortune in Canada.

Nicole Barrett
Executive Director
Allard Prize Initiatives

But instead of stashing in a bank or a hedge fund, Allard has decided to give much of it away.

Including $32 million to fund the law school at the University of British Columbia and to fund an $80,000 prize for international integrity.

The prize is awarded every two years — so far in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

This year’s prize winner will be announced September 28 in Vancouver.

Pulitzer prize winning journalist Glenn Greenwald will give the keynote address.

So far, the prize has a bias in favor of anti-corruption fighters in the Third World.

In 2013, the finalists were Global Witness, which focuses on corruption in the Third World, an Afghan human rights activist, and the winner was an anti-corruption activist from India.

In 2015, the finalists were Indonesia Corruption Watch, a Russian anti-corruption activist, and the winners were two African anti-corruption investigative journalists.

This year, the finalists are the Brazilian Car Wash prosecution team, an Azerbaijani journalist and an Egyptian human rights worker.

That’s ten for ten focusing on corruption outside Western corporate countries.

Not that the Allard Prize isn’t getting nominations from North America.

For example, out of 244 nominations made this year, 42 (17 percent) were from North America.

Even whistleblower Edward Snowden was nominated.

Peter Allard himself is aware of the problem of corruption in North America and the developed world.

“We often naively think that issues of accountability, corruption and the lack of the rule of law are second and third world issues,” Allard said at the 2013 awards ceremony. “But the reality is that our Western democracies are subject to precisely the same concerns.”

“Over the past 30 years, the necessary checks and balances have been increasingly eroded through deregulation and the influence of money over substance and democratic principles.”

In another speech, Allard said that he worries that “legal checks and balances have sometimes flown out the window with lawyers losing sight of their privileged role in society and their duty to uphold the rule of law.”

“I think sometimes lawyers are willfully blind or regrettably even complicit in the short term gains and greed of their clients versus long term growth and stability,” Allard said. “We only have to look at what happened in 2008. It was a time when rating agency opinions were bought, and banks accepted securities documents knowing that they were not “Triple A” but rather junk bond status, or in fact worthless.”

“Ordinary people now suffer terribly as a result of regulatory bodies being gutted and silenced. Equity losses in homes, businesses and pension funds have hurt nearly everyone in our nation and around the world to a degree never before seen in my lifetime.”

“It didn’t have to happen.”

“There were many lawyers, as well as individuals and organizations who fought for responsible corporate governance and reasonable regulation, but it wasn’t enough.”

“The small group of lawyers who did speak up were drowned out by those who put profit before principle.”

“Willful blindness and blinkers were the ‘modus operandi,’ and ‘how does this affect me’ and ‘it’s none of my business’ that allowed an unaccountable process to take root and accelerate.”

One problem with the Allard Prize is that the committees that make the selection and advise on the selection are dominated by those with a corporate outlook – including corporate lawyers and executives from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

Nicole Barrett, executive director of the Allard Prize Initiatives recognizes that there is a problem.

“In future years, we may need to add into the selection criteria a formal requirement of geographical balance to ensure that the Prize has the global breadth it should have,” Barrett told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week. “Hopefully your coverage will help get the word out so we get great nominations from the US and Europe.”

“We feel it is much harder to confront corruption in more sophisticated frameworks and countries that are more developed. That’s largely because people are doing okay by and large. Corruption is seen as a victimless crime — which of course it is not. But there isn’t as much of an outcry against corruption. It rests easier in places where people have their basic needs met than in places where it is much more stark.”

“We are actively trying to make it a more balanced view of what corruption looks like around the world. Brazil is not really a developing country — it’s fairly well developed. The Operation Car Wash officials are government officials. They are Brazilian prosecutors. This is a government institution doing really great work. We are very aware and focused on corruption being everywhere, and we want the prize to represent that knowledge. The people who are the finalists are doing amazing work. We have discussed how we can get more nominations from developed countries. It’s just a bit harder.”

If in fact the Brazilian prosecutors win the award, who gets the money?

“They have designated Transparency International Brazil will get the award. As a government institution, they can’t keep it. We don’t specify where the money needs to go. But we hope that the winners will use the money for anti-corruption efforts.”

Do people nominate themselves?

“Some people have nominated themselves. We also nominate people as well. If we see someone has been doing amazing work and no one has nominated them, we do research on them and we put in the nominations ourselves.”

Earlier this year, we did a story about Transparency International USA. Transparency USA was dominated by corporate lawyers, they were focusing on corruption outside the United States. They were supposed to focus on corruption inside the United States.

The three non law school members on the Allard Prize committee are a hedge fund executive, and two corporate lawyers.

On the advisory committee you have the World Bank and Asian Development Bank and corporate lawyers. And your winners have been from Third World countries. None from North America. I’m wondering if by setting up your committee the way you have, you are effectively screening out North American and developed world corruption?

“I don’t think so because our nominations come from anywhere. The biggest problem is that we are not getting the nominations coming in at the same level or caliber from the Western world as we are from the developing world. Although Edward Snowden was nominated this year.”

Has the winner been chosen?

“Yes. The awards ceremony is here at the University of British Columbia at the old auditorium, which is a beautiful theater here on campus. It will be September 28 from 6:30 to about 8 pm. We have a series of small documentary videos about each of the finalists. We will show the documentaries. Glenn Greenwald will give a keynote address. Several people will speak, including myself. The capacity in the theater is about 500 people. We will livestream it as well. We will have a reception afterward at the law school. Santa Ono, the president of the University of British Columbia will be speaking.”

[For the complete q/a format Interview with Nicole Barrett, see page 31 Corporate Crime Reporter 34(13), September 4, 2017, print edition only.]

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