History of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

In 1977, Congress enacted the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act as part of the 1934 Securities Exchange Act .  The FCPA criminalized the bribery of foreign officials by U.S. corporations and individuals pursuing business in other countries and required that companies with publicly-traded stock meet certain standards regarding their accounting practices, books and records, and internal controls.

The FCPA consequently was amended in both 1988 and 1998.  First in 1988, Congress added two affirmative defenses and directed the executive branch to urge America’s global trading partners to pass anti-corruption laws to promote international parity with regard to business corruption.

In 1998, the FCPA was again amended to implement the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.  Congress ratified the OECD Convention and enacted implementing legislation.  These new amendments broadened the reach of potential FCPA bribery violations by expanding the scope of persons covered by the Act to include some foreign nationals.  Also, the 1998 amendments extended the FCPA’s jurisdiction beyond America’s borders to allow greater enforcement efforts by U.S. prosecutors.


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