International Whistleblower Rewards and Exposing International Illegal Bribe Schemes
History of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
The FCPA was the first effort of any nation to specifically criminalize the act of bribing foreign officials. The statute was enacted in the wake of the “Watergate” scandal in the United States, which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974 and resulted in a dramatic plunge in Americans’ overall trust in government. In 1976, following certain prosecutions for illegal use of corporate funds arising out of the Watergate scandal, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or S.E.C., which regulates the securities industry in the United States, issued a “Report on Questionable and Illegal Corporate Payments and Practices.” In its report, the S.E.C. determined that foreign bribery by U.S. corporations was “serious and sufficiently widespread to be a cause for deep concern.” S.E.C. investigations revealed that hundreds of U.S. companies had made corrupt foreign payments involving hundreds of millions of dollars. With this background, the U.S. Senate Banking Committee concluded that there was a strong need for anti-bribery legislation in the United States. “Corporate bribery is bad business,” the committee said in its Report. “In our free market system it is basic that the sale of products should take place on the basis of price, quality, and service. Corporate bribery is fundamentally destructive of this basic tenet.”
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, as amended, 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1, et seq. ("FCPA"), was enacted for the purpose of making it unlawful for certain classes of persons and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business. Specifically, the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA prohibit the willful use of the mails or any means of instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance of any offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of money or anything of value to any person, while knowing that all or a portion of such money or thing of value will be offered, given or promised, directly or indirectly, to a foreign official to influence the foreign official in his or her official capacity, induce the foreign official to do or omit to do an act in violation of his or her lawful duty, or to secure any improper advantage in order to assist in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person.
Since 1977, the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA have applied to all U.S. persons and certain foreign issuers of securities. With the enactment of certain amendments in 1998, the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA now also apply to foreign firms and persons who cause, directly or through agents, an act in furtherance of such a corrupt payment to take place within the territory of the United States.
The FCPA also requires companies whose securities are listed in the United States to meet its accounting provisions. See 15 U.S.C. § 78m. These accounting provisions, which were designed to operate in tandem with the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA, require corporations covered by the provisions to (a) make and keep books and records that accurately and fairly reflect the transactions of the corporation and (b) devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls.
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