Dealing With the Consequences: Repairing the Social Damage Caused by Corruption

22 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2019

Date Written: January 15, 2016


What do you steal when you bribe a government official? Do you cause any harm when you negotiate a kickback? Is it any different if “everybody does it”? When does your conflict of interest turn into an improper advantage and harms others? These are questions that judges, prosecutors, lawyers, citizens and activists need to confront when dealing with corruption cases.

From a legal policy and practice perspective, this paper takes on these questions and explores the issue of what is the damage caused by corruption, who are its victims, and how can we repair it. We also look at the issue of how do we come forward by taking this point of view. The core idea of this document is two-fold. On the one hand, the recognition that there are damages caused by corruption at the individual, social and collective levels, leads to the option of pursuing its reparation through litigation. On the other, this same recognition creates awareness on the relevance of trust and the value of the public interest among social groups. The proposal is to increase efforts to develop trust and to clarify the value of public good and this is feasible even in contexts where judicial systems are weak, and litigation and reparation seem hard to achieve. The aim here is not to propose a tool to fight corruption, but to promote fairness and trust. This approach works at two different levels: by pursuing reparation through strategic litigation, change is sought by enforcing legal (formal) norms; by promoting trust and an enhanced valuation of the public interest the change is sought at the level of social (informal) norms. These are two different but complementary paths, where the outcomes of both should be similar, this is to promote behavioural change.

Keywords: corruption, social damage, victims, reparation, anticorruption, trust

Suggested Citation

Olaya Garcia, Juanita, Dealing With the Consequences: Repairing the Social Damage Caused by Corruption (January 15, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

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