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On Inauguration Day, We Really Ought To Pause And Reflect


In recent weeks, the U.S. has brought Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions against Brazilian companies based in part on conduct with Brazilian politicians and party parties and another enforcement action against a Chilean company based on its conduct with Chilean politicians and party parties. (See here and here).

FCPA enforcement actions frequently include allegations about “golf in the morning and beer drinking in the evening,” expensive bottles of wine, spa and sauna treatments, charitable contributions or internship and hiring practices all involving alleged “foreign officials.”

Bribery, the U.S. government says, and confidently proclaims “we in the United States are in a unique position to spread the gospel of anti-corruption” and that FCPA enforcement ensures not only that the United States “is on the right side of history, but also that it has a hand in advancing that history.”

Yet on inauguration day, when Washington, D.C. is awash in corporate money more so than a typical day, we really ought to pause and reflect.

As highlighted in a recent New York Times article “Corporations Open the Cash Spigot for Trump’s Inauguration

“Chevron, the oil giant, has given $500,000 for the dayslong festivities. Boeing … pledged $1 million. And Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, giants of the gambling industry, are said to have donated more than that by themselves.”

Perhaps you heard that yesterday, Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands company resolved an unusual DOJ FCPA enforcement concerning its conduct in China at the 11th hour of Obama Administration.

Other corporate donors to inaugural festivities include UPS, JPMorgan (perhaps you heard that a few months ago the company resolved a $202 million FCPA enforcement action based on its hiring and internship practices involving family members of alleged Chinese officials and other private Chinese business executives), Bank of America, Deloitte and AT&T.

As stated in the New York Times article:

“In exchange, Mr. Trump’s most prolific donors will gain access to what amounts to a parallel inauguration week, carefully planned and largely out of public sight, during which they can mingle with members of the incoming administration over intimate meals and witness Mr. Trump’s ascension from the front rows.”

As noted in a related New York Times article “What (Lots of) Money Can Buy At Trump’s Inauguration,” $1 million plus gets one four tickets to a leadership luncheon with cabinet appointees and members of Congressional leadership or four tickets to an “intimate” dinner with Mike Pence and his wife.

Don’t have that amount of coin? No worries as $100,000 – $249,999 will still get you two tickets to an “intimate policy discussion” over dinner with cabinet appointees.

Least you think this is a partisan post, realize that FCPA Professor highlighted the same pernicious aspects of Obama’s inaugural festivities in January 2013. (See here as well as the article “The Uncomfortable Truths and Double Standards of Bribery Enforcement“).

When speaking of FCPA enforcement, the U.S. government has recognized that it “could not be effective abroad if we did not lead by example here at home.”

That of course is spot-on.

But why are business interactions with “foreign officials” subject to different standards than business interactions with U.S. officials?

On this inauguration day when Washington D.C. is awash in corporate money more so than a typical day we really ought to pause and reflect on whether the United States is indeed in a “unique position to spread the gospel of anti-corruption” or on the “right side of history.”

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