Legal Document Translations for FCPA Cases

Legal Document Translation for FCPA Enforcement

Legal translation services play an important role in the FCPA enforcement. Clearly, the issue of bribery and the FCPA is a serious manner. To ensure that you and your company are in compliance, it is essential that you understand all the transactions happening with foreign governments. Since doing business in foreign countries typically involves the use of foreign language contracts and regulations, it is necessary to have a foreign language translation of all such documents to ensure no clauses could be a potential violation of the FCPA.

It can be challenging doing business in a foreign country. People there have different customs and languages. A businessperson must negotiate without having many of the established relationships that are often required to do business.

Business representatives in a foreign country are not allowed to bribe public or company officials to win a business contract or favor. In fact, the United States government can prosecute people for doing so under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Enacted in 1977, the law applies to all US citizens or corporations that trade securities in the United States. If convicted, a person can receive either jail time or a fine. In recent years, the US Department of Justice has been more likely to impose a fine rather than jail time.

The law was implemented after several US corporations were implicated in bribery scandals in the 1970s. First, Lockheed made a series of bribery payments to foreign governments during the sale of military aircraft. The bribery payments to foreign officials were thought to total $22 million. Chiquita Brands was also accused of bribing the president of Honduras in exchange for a lower tax burden. The scandals led Congress to adopt the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which was signed by President Jimmy Carter.

In recent years, Wal-Mart has come under scrutiny for bribing a public official while doing business in Mexico. According to various media reports, Wal-Mart made $24 million in bribery payments in Mexico. The bribes were meant to speed up the process of getting construction permits in the country. The US Department of Justice has launched a probe into the alleged payments. At the same time, Wal-Mart has conducted its own investigation, spending $439 million to pay auditors, lawyers and compliance specialists.

In 2008, German-owned Siemens AG paid $800 million to the US government for violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. According to the US Department of Justice, Siemens paid bribes to the Venezuelan government to obtain the contract for design and construction of a metro rail line. The government said Siemens also bribed officials in Mexico to build a refinery as well as officials in Israel to build a power plant. The payment was the largest in the history of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The violations took place between 2001 and 2007.

Although historically the US government has focused prosecution under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act on companies, in recent years it has begun prosecuting individuals. In 2007 and 2008, 21 cases were brought against individuals under the law. The number increased to 30 in 2010. That is juxtaposed with 2000 when no individuals were prosecuted under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Eight Siemens officials were charged criminally in connection with the bribes paid to the Venezuelan government.

The uptick in prosecutions was not an accident. Changes in the US law, including the accounting rules dictated by Sarbanes-Oxley, as well as greater awareness of the role individuals play in foreign corruption has led to the increase.

In 2012, Albert J. Stanley was sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison. He was the former chief executive of the engineering firm KBR. He engaged in various bribes around the world including a bribe in order to gain a $6 million oil contract in Nigeria.

Some business groups have opposed the recent increase in prosecution under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. They say the government has taken a heavy handed approach to enforcement of the law. But government officials say the law is needed to keep businesses honest.

The World Bank estimates that $1 trillion in bribes is paid annually to government officials around the word. Africa is the most corrupt place with an estimated $148 billion in annual bribery payments, according to Transparency International.

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