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April 27, 2017

Attorney General Signals Commitment to FCPA Enforcement

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has declared that enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is “critical” for the protection of honest businesses. This Trump Administration position addresses speculation and removes some uncertainty about the extent to which Attorney General Sessions would be committed to continued enforcement of the FCPA — a law President Trump has criticized in the past.

The FCPA, enacted in 1977, but not robustly enforced until approximately 2005, has become a significant risk and compliance factor for companies doing business overseas.

Speaking to the Ethics and Compliance Initiative Annual Conference on April 24, 2017, Attorney General Sessions stated that:

We will also enforce these laws so we can protect honest businesses. Companies that obey the law and do the right thing should not be at a disadvantage simply because their competitors choose to break the rules.

One area where this is critical is enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Congress enacted this law 40 years ago, when some companies considered it a routine expense to bribe foreign officials in order to gain business advantages abroad.

This type of corruption harms free competition, distorts prices and often leads to substandard products and services coming into this country. It also increases the cost of doing business, and hurts honest companies that don’t pay these bribes.

Our department wants to create an even playing field for law-abiding companies. We will continue to strongly enforce the FCPA and other anti-corruption laws. Companies should succeed because they provide superior products and services, not because they have paid off the right people.

In addition, Attorney General Sessions emphasized that the Department of Justice will continue to hold individuals accountable for corporate misconduct, and, when making charging decisions, will continue to consider a company’s compliance program, its cooperation and whether it self-disclosed its wrongdoing, and its remediation efforts.

With this perspective of President Trump’s Justice Department revealed, it is critical for companies doing business overseas to review their compliance with the FCPA. A strong compliance program can limit instances of misconduct and prevent enforcement activity, saving a company time and money.

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