Happy 35th birthday to our favorite statute, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Thirty-five years ago today, President Jimmy Carter signed S. 305. President Carter’s signing statement stated in full as follows
“I am pleased to sign into law S. 305, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 and the Domestic and Foreign Investment Improved Disclosure Act of 1977. During my campaign for the Presidency, I repeatedly stressed the need for tough legislation to prohibit corporate bribery. S. 305 provides that necessary sanction. I share Congress’s belief that bribery is ethically repugnant and competitively unnecessary. Corrupt practices between corporations and public officials overseas undermine the integrity and stability of governments and harm our relations with other countries. Recent revelations of widespread overseas bribery have eroded public confidence in our basic institutions. This law makes corrupt payments to foreign officials illegal under United States law. It requires publicly held corporations to keep accurate books and records and establish accounting controls to prevent the use of ‘off-the-books’ devices, which have been used to disguise corporate bribes in the past. The law also requires more extensive disclosure of ownership of stocks registered with the [SEC]. These efforts, however, can only be fully successful in combating bribery and extortion if other countries and business itself take comparable action. Therefore, I hope progress will continue in the United Nations toward the negotiation of a treaty on illicit payments. I am also encouraged by the International Chamber of Commerce’s new Code of Ethical Business Practices.”
S. 305, of course, did not fall out of the sky onto President Carter’s desk thirty-five years ago today. Rather, S. 305 was the result of more than two years of Congressional investigation, deliberation, and consideration.
If the FCPA is your cup of tea, as it is mine, you owe it to yourself to read the most extensive piece ever written about the FCPA’s history. See here for my recently published scholarship “The Story of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.” The Article weaves together information and events scattered in the FCPA’s voluminous legislative record to tell the FCPA’s story through original voices of actual participants who shaped the law.