Reviewing enhancements to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits certain classes of entities or individuals from providing payment to foreign government officials in order to obtain or retain business. 

In 2017, the deputy attorney general highlighted enhancements to the FCPA during a speech at the 34th International Conference of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. 


The FCPA contains anti-bribery provisions. These prohibit using the mail and other means of interstate commerce to pay or promise to pay money or anything of value to anyone if it causes a foreign official to omit or violate his or her duty or secure an improper advantage to help obtain or retain business for or with anyone, or direct business to anyone. 

These provisions apply to all United States citizens as well as to some foreign firms that issue securities. To comply with the Act, any company that is publicly traded in the United States must maintain proper accounting controls for transaction transparency. 

Enhancement highlights 

In his 2017 speech, the deputy attorney general pointed to three FCPA enhancements: 

  • According to the FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy, unless aggravating circumstances exist, the Justice Department may resolve a corporate case through declination if the company cooperates fully, provides voluntary self-disclosure and offers timely remediation. 
  • If aggravating circumstances exist but the company satisfies all requirements including voluntarily revealing wrongdoing, the Justice Department will recommend a reduction in sentencing guidelines as an incentive for good conduct. 
  • The FCPA provides information as to how the Justice Department evaluates a compliance program based on a company’s size and resources. 

FCPA success 

The deputy attorney general noted that from 2016 to the fall of 2017, the FCPA Unit in the Justice Department’s Fraud Section had closed 17 FCPA-related cases with associated penalties of more than $1.6 billion. Two of these were voluntary disclosures under the FCPA Pilot Program. Nonprosecution agreements resolved both cases.