Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
Administered by the Department of Justice, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) makes it unlawful for any U.S. citizen or business to offer, pay, transfer, promise to pay money or anything of value to any foreign appointed or elected government official, foreign political party or candidate for foreign political office for a corrupt purpose. The FCPA does not prohibit payments made to facilitate a routine government action, one that a foreign official must perform as part of the job such as processing visas or other official documents. A corrupt payment is one made to influence an official’s discretionary decision. In general, the FCPA prohibits corrupt payments to foreign officials for the purpose of obtaining or keeping business. Individuals and business entities can be criminally liable and punished by both fines and imprisonment. Civil penalties may also be assessed against firms and offices, directors, employees and agents.
As a result of the Enron scandal and the introduction of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, there has been an increased enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The FCPA prohibits improper payments to influence foreign officials who have the power to affect a company’s business. Officials at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have been aggressively pursuing more and more cases and obtaining results that include criminal fines, prison terms for individuals, and the return of monies obtained through illegal means. Because of the increased scrutiny by both the government and the press, many companies have placed more efforts on anti-corruption efforts.
Even though the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was passed over 30 years ago, well-known companies such as Siemens, Pfizer, Avon and Tyson Foods appeared in the news for violation of the FCPA. Let’s review some of the basics of the FCPA.