The FCPA bars payments from U.S. companies to foreign officials for the purpose of obtaining or keeping business. For the purposes of the Act, a foreign official is "any officer or employee of a foreign government, a public international organization, or any department or agency thereof, or any person acting in an official capacity."
Companies that violate the FCPA can face fines running into the millions of dollars and face suspension and debarment from doing business with the federal government.
According to Meyer, who leads Venable’s International Trade Practice Group, DOJ has initiated more FCPA cases since 2005 than it did from 1977, when the law was enacted. The stakes are raised father by the global economic downturn, which has driven companies to be more aggressive and cut corners in order to win new business or maintain current work.
"We are looking at a tightened economy and increased pressure to make sales," said Meyer. "Before, companies had greater flexibility when the economy was expanding," she said. "That, combined with the greater use of overseas agents and distribution platforms, drives home the nature of the fact that companies are increasingly exposed to the potentials of improper payments."
Meyer also pointed out that governments around the world are now more willing to work together to stop corruption.
"We are really encouraging our clients to be proactive—to look at their actual practices and then test those; look at the practices of their officers and employees and, more importantly, their agents and business partners around the globe," she said. "There was a misconception that these laws were focused on U.S. entities and their employees but, actually, the reach is much greater than that."