In recent years, the number of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) enforcement proceedings and the size of the financial penalties have skyrocketed. Between 2006 and 2008, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have initiated more FCPA enforcement actions than in the first 28 years of the FCPA. Collateral consequences of an FCPA violation - including lawsuits by shareholders and competitors, the loss of rights to seek government contracts, and drastic declines in a company's share price - can be severe.
The FCPA was enacted in 1977 to stop the payment of bribes by American firms to foreign officials to obtain or keep business. According to the DOJ, the FCPA was a result of SEC investigations in which more than 400 companies admitted making questionable or illegal payments in excess of $300 million to foreign government officials, politicians, and political parties. Now, the amount of money changing hands in bribery has shot up to staggering amounts, and enforcement is as aggressive as ever.
As a result, there's growth expected in General Counsel and advisory work, an increase in voluntary disclosures and a greater need for defined corporate compliance programs.
Multi-jurisdictional investigations also are on the rise and international legal cooperation is expected to increase. In addition, the DOJ and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are increasing staffing to enforce FCPA. In particular, the DOJ is kicking off sector wide investigations in areas like oil and gas, pharmaceuticals and anti-money laundering.
To assist counsel with FCPA matters, Westlaw now has a new tabbed page - the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act page - as an ideal starting point for researching a once-obscure statute.
Highlights of the FCPA tabbed page include the following:
• Convenient links to related primary and secondary materials, grouped into intuitive categories.
• Ability to run a Terms and Connectors or Natural Language search in multiple databases at once.
• Single-click access (i.e., no search required) to the original public law, the subsequent codifications, comparable anti-bribery authority in other countries, and other essential documents.
• Instant access to preformulated searches of releases and opinions from the DOJ, the SEC, and the courts.
• Instant access to preformulated searches of news, Federal Register, and congressional bill text databases on Westlaw.
The FCPA tabbed page on Westlaw was designed for business compliance professionals in corporations, government agencies and attorneys or other legal staff associated with international trade or commerce.
"It will help heighten awareness of the law and what the FCPA proscribes as improper payments to officials and other individuals, what can constitute a bribe," said Elinor Cheung, Product Development, Thomson Reuters, Legal. "The new tabbed page also helps ensure compliance by training and education of employees and other agents and assists with setting up appropriate procedures, recordkeeping, and safeguards."