The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA) evolved from investigations by the Office of the Special Prosecutor that provided evidence of illegal acts perpetrated by U.S. firms in foreign lands. More than 400 U.S. companies admitted to making questionable payments to various foreign governments and political parties as part of an amnesty program (U.S. Department of Justice http://www.usdoj.gov). Given the environment of the 1970s and the proliferation of white-collar crimes (e.g., insider trading, bribery, false financial statements, etc.), particularly the payments made to foreign officials by corporations, Congress felt obligated to introduce legislation that led to the act. Congress's objective was to restore confidence …show more content…
These payments are distinguishable from corrupt payments in that these "grease payments" are for facilitating the performance of officials who are obligated to perform said duties. Questions regarding this amendment, affirmative defenses, or other provisions of the FCPA should be directed to counsel, or companies may wish to use the Department of Justice's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Opinion Procedure. Under this procedure, upon receiving a question from a company or individual, the attorney general has thirty days to issue an opinion regarding the inquiry. The objective is to alleviate uncertainty regarding acts covered by the FCPA.
The FCPA provides penalties for violations. Criminal penalties for bribery violations include fines of up to $2 million for firms; fines of up to $100,000 and imprisonment of up to five years for officers, directors, and stockholders; and fines of up to $100,000 for employees and agents (fines imposed on individuals cannot to be paid by companies). The SEC or attorney general may also bring actions that lead to civil penalties. Also, the act's penalties do not supersede penalties or fines levied under the provisions of other statutes. A violation of the bribery provisions of the FCPA may give rise to a private cause of action for treble damages under RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act).