SEC and Justice Department Issue "Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act"

November 14, 2012

The SEC Whistleblower Program authorized in 2010's Dodd-Frank law has greater significance because the SEC and the Justice Department share jurisdiction over Foreign Corrupt Practices Act cases.

Today, SEC Director of Enforcement Robert Khuzami and Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer released the "Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act." They describe the Guide as "a unprecedented undertaking by DOJ and SEC to provide the public with detailed information about our FCPA enforcement approach and priorities."

FCPA investigations have increased significantly in the past few years, and the dollar amount of these cases is often quite large. FCPA cases brought by SEC whistleblowers will only add to amount of FCPA violations uncovered.

The Guide is a primer on the FCPA. The SEC and DOJ have attempted to summarize "who and what is covered by the FCPA’s anti-bribery and accounting provisions; the definition of a 'foreign official'; what constitute proper and improper gifts, travel and entertainment expenses; the nature of facilitating payments; how successor liability applies in the mergers and acquisitions context; the hallmarks of an effective corporate compliance program; and the different types of civil and criminal resolutions available in the FCPA context."

Chapter 3 describes the accounting provisions over which the SEC has authority. When a defendant pays commercial bribes to foreign officials, the offending companies often disguise the payments through false accounting entries. The FCPA creates civil liability for such violations of the Act's “books and records” provision.

The FCPA's “internal controls” provision is also important, as it requires that issuers devise and maintain a system of internal accounting controls to assure management’s control,authority, and responsibility over the firm’s assets.

The Guide should prove helpful not only to companies that wish to comly with the law, but also to potential SEC whistleblowers with knowledge of possible FCPA violations.