Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA)

In recent months, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) have announced several notable penalties for violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  The FCPA prohibits bribery of foreign government officials and requires issuers of securities on U.S. exchanges to keep and maintain accurate books and records and robust internal controls.

We have summarized a few of these enforcement actions below to serve as a reminder of the various ways in which companies can fall afoul of the FCPA.

Goldman Sachs Pays Largest-Ever FCPA Penalty

In October 2020, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (Goldman Sachs) agreed to a $3.3 billion penalty to resolve allegations that the company and its Malaysian subsidiary violated the FCPA by making payments to a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).  This represents the largest-ever FCPA penalty imposed on a company.

The DOJ and SEC alleged that senior employees of Goldman Sachs used a third-party intermediary to bribe high-ranking government officials in Abu Dhabi and Malaysia.  The improper payments were allegedly made by Goldman Sachs to assist with efforts to obtain business from 1MDB.


Continue Reading FCPA Update: Enforcement Continues

  • Humanitarian exports to Iran are permitted – within limits.
  • Corruption can flourish in the midst of crisis.
  • Export controls limit sharing technical data related to the virus with some countries.
  • Compliance professionals should be proactive and visible during a time of crisis.

Despite the sobering news reports on the global spread of COVID-19, companies are

  • A payment to a government official can take many forms.
  • The SEC charges bank for books and records violation even absent a bribery charge.
  • Industry-wide enforcement is a continuing tactic for U.S. regulators.

On September 27, 2019, Barclays PLC agreed to pay $6.3 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to settle charges that Barclays violated the books and records and internal accounting controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The Barclays settlement fits a pattern of recent U.S. government enforcement against companies, particularly in the financial services sector, relating to FCPA violations stemming from hiring or providing internships to relatives and friends of government officials.  Penalties have been significant – for example, Credit Suisse Group AG paid a $47 million penalty in 2018 as part of a Justice Department FCPA investigation into their hiring practices in Asia.  We previously wrote about this issue in an August 2015 article about a settlement related to the hiring practices of Bank of New York Mellon.

The Barclays matter is a useful reminder of three things:

  1. What constitutes the giving of a thing of value to a government official is broadly interpreted and goes beyond simply giving money or a gift or other tangible thing directly to an official.
  2. The SEC can – and will – enforce the FCPA when there are deemed to be violations of the books and records provisions of the law, even if no charge of bribery is brought in the matter.
  3. The U.S. government continues to pursue industry-wide enforcement under the (apparently accurate) belief that what one company does in a specific industry is likely something that many companies in that industry also do.


Continue Reading (Another) Big Bank Pays FCPA Penalty for Hiring Practice