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Hiring a “Foreign Official”

Hiring a “foreign official” can be risky. Particularly when the “foreign official” is recommended by a foreign government. These are certain FCPA “red flags.”

However, “red flags” don’t always turn out red and in this case the “red flags” turn a pleasant shade of pink because the “foreign official” recommended by a foreign government is being hired in connection with a U.S. government contract.

That at least appears to be one take-away from FCPA Opinion Procedure Release No. 10-01 (see here).

According to the Release, a U.S. company (the “Requestor”) “entered into a contract with an agency of the U.S. government to perform work in a foreign country.” “Pursuant to that contract, the Requestor is obligated to hire and compensate individuals in connection with that work” and “at least one individual to be hired, and perhaps more, is a foreign official within the meaning of the FCPA.”

Among other things, the Requestor represented that: (i) the foreign country selected the “foreign official” to be hired based upon the individual’s qualifications for the position; (ii) the U.S. government directed the Requestor to hire the “foreign official”; (iii) the “foreign official” will be compensated $5,000 per month to provide services as directed by the foreign country; (iv) the foreign official currently serves as a paid officer for an agency of the foreign country, but the individual’s position does not relate to the work at issue and the services that the individual will perform are separate and apart from those performed by the individual as a “foreign official”; and (v) the “foreign official” will not perform any services on behalf of, or make any decision affecting the Requestor including any procurement or contracting decisions.

Based on this information, the DOJ stated that it “does not presently intend to take any enforcement action with respect to the proposed service contract described in this request.”

According to the DOJ, “[w]hile the Individual is a “foreign official” within the meaning of the FCPA, and will receive compensation as Facility Director, through a subcontractor, from the Requestor, the Individual is being hired pursuant to an agreement between the U.S. Government Agency and the Foreign Country, and will not be in a position to influence any act or decision affecting the Requestor.”

The DOJ further stated:

“The Requestor is contractually bound to hire and compensate the Individual as directed by the U.S. Government Agency. The Requestor did not play any role in selecting the Individual, who was appointed by the Foreign Country based upon the Individual’s qualifications. Moreover, the Individual’s position is separate and apart from the Individual’s position as a Foreign Officer. In neither position will the Individual perform any services on behalf of, or receive any direction from, the Requestor. Accordingly, the Individual will have no decision-making authority over matters affecting the Requestor, including procurement and contracting decisions.”

To read more about the detailed requirements of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Opinion Procedure process (see here and here).

For additional FCPA Opinion Procedure Releases on the topic of hiring a “foreign official” or otherwise doing business with a “foreign official” see 80-4 (here), 82-03 (here), 86-01 (here), 93-01 (here), 93-02 (here), 94-01 (here), 96-02 (here), 00-01 (here), 01-02 (here), 08-01 (here)

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