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Bribing a Foreign Official Could Expose You to Criminal Liability

White Collar Criminal Defense By Harvey Binnall PLLC - 2018/11/23 at 07:07pm

If you or your organization has been accused of having bribed a foreign official in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), then you may be concerned about the repercussions of conviction.  FCPA violations can give rise to significant criminal penalties that include up to $2,000,000 per violation (for entities) and up to $250,000 per violation and five years’ imprisonment for individuals.  This is not accounting for civil penalties, which may be imposed separately.

Given the high stakes nature of FCPA anti-bribery litigation, it’s important that you understand the basics.  Let’s take a quick look.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 was enacted for the purpose of enforcing anti-bribery measures.  Prior to the FCPA, businesses and their agents/employees were quite frequently involved in bribing foreign officials for their own purposes.  The enactment of the FCPA made it illegal to give anything of value (services, goods, etc.) to a foreign official for the purpose of obtaining, retaining, or directing, or for the purpose of securing an unfair business advantage.

Systemic Industry Corruption is Not a Defense

Many businesses mistakenly believe that they are entitled to bribe foreign officials because it is a common practice in their industry, or in the target market.  For example, in prominent Asian markets like India and China, it is commonplace for local government officials to demand personal gifts and payments — bribes — in order for a license to be procured, or to have some other regulatory barrier lifted.

Though it is certainly frustrating to encounter such rampant corruption, the existence of corruption — systemic or not — cannot shield the violator from criminal liability.  Even if others in the same industry are violating the FCPA, that is not a defense.  Such violators are still subject to criminal liability for bribery.

Preventative Measures

It’s important that businesses take preventative action to comply with the FCPA and to internally discipline employees who attempt to commit (or actually commit) violations of the FCPA anti-bribery laws.  Failure to do so could expose the business to significant civil liability.

Preventative measures may include an internal audit of the protocol, procedures, and disciplinary actions being taken against potential violators, as well as a reformation of such procedures to better prevent violations.  Regular consideration of FCPA compliance is critical to ensure that there are no organizational loopholes and to develop a uniform understanding of the organization’s negative view of violative actions.

Contact an Experienced Alexandria White Collar Defense Attorney for Guidance

Harvey & Binnall, PLLC is a boutique criminal defense firm located in Alexandria, VA and serving clients throughout the NOVA region (including the Washington, D.C. metro).  We have extensive experience litigating white collar criminal disputes, such as FCPA bribery violations and criminal fraud.

FCPA violations tend to draw the attention of particularly relentless prosecutors — our deep knowledge of criminal litigation (and the tactics thereof) enables us to match the aggression of these prosecutors and help our clients effectively navigate the minefield of a complex white collar dispute.

Call or request an appointment online to speak to an experienced Alexandria white collar defense attorney at Harvey & Binnall, PLLC.