Legal Language Services and Issues with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

We’ve blogged about FCPA translation and multilingual legal interpretation services for corporate legal departments and attorneys. Last spring, the US Department of Justice convicted its first corporate defendant under the auspices of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) – the country’s toughest anti-bribery law. However, that conviction – and many since – have been tarnished with embarrassing mistakes and mistrials – leading many to believe that the DOJ is trying to push the FCPAs jurisdiction too far. Although the FCPA has been on the books for awhile, it is only recently that it is being used regularly – leading such advocacy organizations as the US Chamber of Commerce to complain that it is actually impeding US company’s ability to compete in the global marketplace.

Specifically, the Chamber of Commerce notes that the law, on its face, has good intentions. However, the problem is that it lacks clear definitions of what is considered illegal behavior. For example, it says that it is illegal for a company to give a foreign official a sum of money in exchange for a favorable business condition, yet it fails to define a foreign official or what amount of money is considered to be a bribe. It is this lack of clarity that is putting businesses at risk and a disadvantage, notes the Chamber.

Under these circumstances, the best thing a business operating in a foreign jurisdiction can do is to carefully police its actions with foreign officials. Further, to ensure that a payment or somebody’s stature is not misread, it is important to use a foreign language translation to document the intent of all business transactions.

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