Professional legal translation and legal interpreting services are critical to successful international business and corporate transactions. According to a recent Wall Street Journal (Europe) article, in recent years the U.S. government has “dramatically stepped up its pursuit of bribery in other nations by American-based or listed corporations.” This crackdown is based on the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and has the intention of prohibiting U.S. companies or companies traded on U.S. stock exchanges from paying, or offering to pay, foreign-government officials or employees of state-owned companies to gain a business advantage. It also covers nonmonetary gifts.
However, it wasn’t until recently that the law has been enforced by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission. In fact, just this past spring over 120 companies were under investigation for FCPA violations – including Siegmens AG.
The problem with the FCPA is that companies, both large and small, have difficulty interpreting what, according to its terms, does or does not count as a bribe. Although the Justice Department publishes a “Layperson’s Guide to the FCPA” on its website, it does little to actually define what bribery is. For example, the FCPA fails to specify how much money constitutes a bribe. In other words, a business can only guess whether or not spending $100 for a client dinner might land them in legal trouble.
Often times the definition of a bribe will depend heavily on the law of the local jurisdiction. Thus, to understand whether or not a $100 client dinner may be a bribe, one should begin by looking at local law and practice. Of course, to do this, one needs a foreign language translation of the statutes and case law decisions.