Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: Aggressive Use of New Enforcement Tools By The Administration


Enacted hastily in the post-Watergate Era’s ethical fever, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) was designed to eliminate bribery of foreign officials by American companies doing business abroad. The FCPA does so by broadly prohibiting American companies from making corrupt payments to foreign officials and requiring companies to maintain books and records and accounting systems sufficient to ensure that a company’s outside auditors will discover corrupt payments.

The past 18 months have seen an unprecedented number of criminal and civil proceedings and settlements involving American companies, and in many cases, individual company officials for FCPA violations. Almost as remarkable as the recent law enforcement efforts of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division (DOJ) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are the unprecedented sword rattling of both agencies. Senior officials have made themselves available and spoke candidly not just on their considerable enforcement record, but also about personnel staffing details and enforcement policy initiatives usually not discussed publicly.

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