A friend of mine is woking on an issue I find fascinating. It’s illegal for a U.S. corporation to bribe a “foreign official.” If you want to do business in Uganda and, on a trip there, buy someone dinner only to find out later they are an appointed official in the Ugandan Govt., are you guilty of bribing? What is a “foreign official?” What are other nation’s standards for bribing “foreign officials?”
For decades U.S. companies who do international business have been self-reporting to the SEC in compliance with a little-known law called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The law has been instrumental in elevating American businesses’ reputation throughout the world, but not without a price.
Enacted in 1977, the FCPA provides a much-needed requirement that U.S. businesses cannot bribe foreign officials. Everyone can agree this is important, but due to a lack of definition of “foreign official” and increased enforcement by the Department of Justice, many companies are, unfortunately, steering clear of international markets.
The global economy U.S. companies compete in today is drastically different than the conditions in 1977 when the FCPA became law. Nearly one third of our U.S. economy today comes from international business. In order for America’s job creators to continue to expand, it’s time for Congress to look at changes to the FCPA that will reduce the fear and uncertainty that plagues the U.S. business community while ensuring continued accountability.