Remarks: James Spinner

By Spinner, James | Law and Policy in International Business, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Remarks: James Spinner


Spinner, James, Law and Policy in International Business


Thank you, Dean Gustafson. Let me start by thanking the Department of Legal Cooperation of the Organization of American States and the Georgetown University Law Center for inviting me to participate in this conference today. I am particularly pleased that it is at Georgetown. Both my wife and I are 1976 graduates of the Law Center. The Law Center is justly proud of its alumni and very loyal to its alumni. I am assuming that is why, in his introduction, Dean Gustafson promoted me to the position of general counsel at the bank. I am actually the deputy general counsel at the Inter-American Development Bank.

I am also particularly pleased that this event is held here in the Moot Courtroom. This room has two very strong memories for me, one at the beginning of my law school days here and one at the end of my law school days.

At the beginning, during the first year orientation sessions that were held here, the then dean of the law school, Adrian Fisher, welcomed all of us frightened first year law students by sharing a story that frightened us even further--although it was told to reassure us and show us the changes that had taken place in legal education systems from the time that he was a student.

As I recall, he told us that when he was welcomed at his orientation, he had been requested to look around at the three people sitting closest to him and to study them. He was then told to ponder this. Statistics showed that out of every four law students at that time, one would fail his first year in law school; the second would fail at some point during the three years of law school, and only two would complete the law school career. One of those would go on to a successful career. The other one would go on to a not so successful career; presumably under the definitions back then, a not so successful career would have included a law professor, working in government, or working for a multilateral organization or an NGO!

My second memory here is much better, and that was this is the room in which I was sworn into the District of Columbia bar.

Of particular concern also, as I speak here on a beautiful fall afternoon, Friday after lunch, is that the place was also well known for good naps. It was good to nap in between classes, and it was great for good naps as we took the bar exam preparatory course here. I will try not to induce the same behavior. There will be other opportunities to nap in the Moot Courtroom.

Over the last two years, on behalf of the bank, I have attended many panels and conferences dealing with good governance and anticorruption efforts in the hemisphere. I must say that in addressing corruption, I have rarely seen as accurate and as interesting a title for a panel discussion as the one that this panel has: The Law, Expectations and Reality in the Marketplace.

I view that title as a recognition by implication of one of the basic issues in dealing with corruption and governance, which is the disconnect that exists between the reality and the expectation of how governments and civil society have dealt with this issue. There is an expectation --as over the years people in the hemisphere have become more acutely aware of the issues of governance, civil law reform and other reforms of the state--there is an expectation in dealing with corruption that new laws, new regulations, and new legislation will deal with the problem. Let us legislate it out of existence, or by legislation, let us minimize its existence and its impact.

The reality is that, in many countries, the laws, processes and mechanisms exist, to one degree or another, to deal with good governance and to deal with the issue of public and private sector corruption. But in many places there is a failure of political will and a failure to solidly look at processes and determine how the laws, the rules can be implemented.

That is not to say that there is not a need for legislation in many countries, and that an agreement like the recently approved Inter-American Convention Against Corruption is not a critical tool in this area. …

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