In the movie “Syriana” – a politically charged story of greed, self-interest, betrayal, and corruption in the oil and gas industry – one of the characters angrily learns he is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for bribery to obtain drilling rights in Kazakhstan. “Corruption charges! Corruption? Corruption is government intrusion into market efficiencies in the form of regulations. … We have laws against it precisely so we can get away with it. Corruption is our protection. Corruption keeps us safe and warm. Corruption is why you and I are prancing around in here instead of fighting over scraps of meat out in the streets. Corruption is why we win.”
These contemptuous comments are what one would expect from those who have been
caught up in bribery probes and prosecutions under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).
Since 1977, the FCPA has been an available weapon in the arsenal of federal prosecutors in the United States. Yet, the specter of the FCPA was once infrequently seen, so much that companies and their employees came to believe they had nothing to worry about. But times have changed. Now, the mere utterance of the acronym FCPA is enough to instill deep concern, and even fear, in corporate suites throughout the world.
The FCPA makes bribery of foreign officials to obtain or retain business and the failure to maintain accurate books and records, as well as related internal controls – a very serious crime. The act’s provisions significantly impact business organizations through criminal and civil prosecutions and the collateral damage that comes with government enforcement of anti-corruption laws.
Like at no other time before, there is a growing global crackdown on corruption. The United States has been joined by other countries in this fight. There have been more investigations and prosecutions of both businesses and their employees than at any time in the past 30 years.
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