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Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
MyWikiBiz, Author Your Legacy — Tuesday May 21, 2013
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1, et seq.) is a United States federal law known primarily for two of its main provisions, one that addresses accounting transparency requirements under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and another concerning bribery of foreign officials.
Provisions and scope
The antibribery provisions of the FCPA, prohibit:
- Issuers, domestic concerns, and any person
- From making use of interstate commerce
- In furtherance of an offer or payment of anything of value
- To a foreign official, foreign political party, or candidate for political office
- For the purpose of influencing any act of that foreign official in violation of the duty of that official or to secure any improper advantage in order to obtain or retain business.
Persons Subject to the FCPA
- Issuers - Include any U.S. or foreign corporation that has a class of securities registered, or that is require to file reports, under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934
- Domestic Concerns - refer to any individual who is a citizen, national, or resident of the United States and any corporation and other business entity organized under the laws of the United Sates or having its principal place of business in the United States.
- Any person - Covers both enterprise and individuals
As a result of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigations in the mid-1970s, over 400 U.S. companies admitted making questionable or illegal payments in excess of $300 million to foreign government officials, politicians, and political parties. The abuses ran the gamut from bribery of high foreign officials to secure some type of favorable action by a foreign government to so-called facilitating payments that allegedly were made to ensure that government functionaries discharged certain ministerial or clerical duties. Congress enacted the FCPA to bring a halt to the bribery of foreign officials and to restore public confidence in the integrity of the American business system. 
The Act was amended in 1998 by the International Anti-Bribery Act of 1998 which was designed to implement the anti-bribery conventions of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The antibribery provisions of the FCPA make it unlawful for a U.S. person, and certain foreign issuers of securities, to make a payment to a foreign official for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person. Since 1998, they also apply to foreign firms and persons who take any act in furtherance of such a corrupt payment while in the United States. The meaning of foreign official is broad. For example an owner of a bank who is also the brother of the minister of finance would count as a foreign official according to the U.S. government. There is no materiality to this act, making it illegal to offer even a penny as a bribe. The government focuses on the intent of the bribery more than the amount of it.
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 antibribery provisions of the FCPA, require corporations covered by the provisions to make and keep books and records that accurately and fairly reflect the transactions of the corporation and to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls.
Regarding payments to foreign officials, the act draws a distinction between bribery and facilitation or "grease payments", which may be permissible if they are not against local laws. A company's legal department generally still has to approve such payments. The primary distinction is that grease payments are made to an official to expedite his performance of the duties he is already bound to perform.
- Convention against Corruption (disambiguation page)
- US Department of Justice page on the FCPA, including a lay person's guide
- Indictments allege bribes were paid for Kazakstan oil 2 Americans accused -- but not U.S. firms, by Marlena Telvick, April 2003
- Lucent fires four executives in China over allegations of bribery
- Report requests for bribes on BRIBEline
- Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a CRS Report to U.S. Congressde:Foreign Corrupt Practices Act