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FCPA Reform And The Olympics

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This recent Wall Street Journal article titled “A Corporate Giant Lurks Behind the Winter Olympics” chronicles Samsung’s role in the Olympics. According to the article “never before have an Olympics, a host country, and a major company been so closely intertwined” and the article largely focuses on the dual role of Lee Kun-hee “as Chairman of a major Olympic sponsor [Samsung] and an International Olympic Committee member.”

According to the article, Lee (after being released from prison for breach of trust and tax evasion) spent 170 days on 11 separate trips marketing Pyeongchange to IOC voters and that some of the meetings “were arranged with the help of Europe-based Samsung staff and conducted at the company’s local offices.”

Although not a perfect parallel, the article mentions that “after Salt Lake City officials were suspected of making payments to IOC members to help win the Winter Olympics, the IOC created new rules aimed at removing any hint of influencing peddling.”

In connection with the Salt Lake City Olympic scandal (see here and here), certain bills were introduced in Congress seeking to curb Olympic bribery and corruption.

In April 1999, Representative Henry Waxman introduced H.R. 1370, Senator John McCain introduced S. 803, and Senator John Ashcroft introduced S. 797. As stated in the preambles of certain bills:

“The IOC has been beset by allegations of illegal and improper gifts made to IOC members during the bid process in which cities compete to host the Olympic games. In order to maintain the integrity of the Olympic games, reforms are necessary to ensure that future Olympic games are awarded to host cities in an impartial manner.”

These bills sought to amend the FCPA by restricting American corporate sponsorship of the IOC and/or amend the “foreign official” element to expressly include IOC officials.

Specifically, H.R. 1370 sought to “amend the FCPA to prevent persons doing business in interstate commerce from providing financial support to the International Olympic Committee until the International Olympic Committee adopts institutional reforms.”

Specifically, S. 803 sought “to make the International Olympic Committee subject to the FCPA” by amending the “foreign official” definition – specifically the “public international organization” prong to include the International Olympic Committee.

Specifically, S. 797 sought “to apply the FCPA to the International Olympic Committee” by amending the term “‘foreign official’ [to] include[] any member of, employee of, or any person acting in an official capacity for or on behalf of, the International Olympic Committee.’”

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