Sévan Karian, 2012


Languages spoken: French, English, Spanish, Armenian
Thesis advisor: Professor Jeswald Salacuse


In the recent past, corrupt payments made by investors to foreign officials were acceptable and even subject to tax deductions in most developed countries. However, during the last two decades, the international community radically changed its position and now universally recognizes that corruption has negative effects on economic development and affects the international business community. The theme of “corruption” has thus become a major point of focus, and an unprecedented amount of anti-corruption international treaties and domestic regulations have been adopted since the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practice Act of 1977, such as the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, the UN Convention Against Corruption, the UK Bribery Act 2010, and the new Russian and Chinese legislations in 2011, among others.

This evolving legal framework is an important progress in the global fight against corruption. However, lack of enforcement in certain countries, as well as discrepancies and different levels of obligations depending on domestic legislations still constitute key obstacles to efficiently preventing corruption and establishing a level playing field between international business actors in a growing globalized economy. Collectively, these legal instruments demonstrate a common consensus that corruption is no longer acceptable. International commercial arbitrators have started to use this argument to take into consideration corruption in investor-State disputes when analyzing the ‘investment’ subject to the litigation.

This paper analyzes this emerging practice, and tries to explore how it could constitute an important tool in the global fight against corruption and give the international commercial arbitrator a potentially new key role to play in this field.


Sevan Karian is a French-qualified lawyer admitted to the Paris Bar since 2009. He received with honors a Master Degree in International Law from the Université Paris X Nanterre. While attending the Bar School of Versailles, he also received a Master Degree in Geopolitics and International Relations from the “Sciences Po” Institute, where he is now teaching a class on legal issues related to foreign direct investments in developing countries.

In his professional career, Sevan spent six months as a trainee legal advisor at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was then legal advisor for a French Deputy working on the Economic Partnership Agreements between the European Union and the African-Caribbean-Pacific countries. Before attending The Fletcher School, he spent two years as an associate for international law firms in Paris (Herbert Smith LLP) and Buenos Aires (Estudio Cardenas), focusing on Foreign Direct Investments, Energy, Infrastructure and Natural Resources projects in Africa and South America.

After graduating from Fletcher, Sevan started his own non-profit organization called “AYO,” in Paris, France (AYO stands for Armenian Youth Organization, but also means “Yes” in the Armenian language, the message Sevan wants to bring to the underprivileged children of Armenia). He is also lawyer at the Paris bar and an agent for a young professional soccer player.


  • French
  • English
  • Spanish
  • Armenian