Most businesspeople in Nevada who do business internationally know that bribery is common in certain countries. Federal law has long prohibited U.S. companies from bribing foreign business or government officials, but only recently has the government begun to strongly enforce the law, known as the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act.
The problem is that the question of what is an acceptable paying of expenses for prospective business clients or partners and what is a bribe can be confusing for many business executives who are not trained in business law. Consulting a business lawyer can help clear up the fog. Another possibly helpful resource is a new “resource guide” put out by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission on Nov. 14.
The 120-page document is meant to provide greater detail on, for example, whether entertaining a business official from another country is a bribe or not. The key seems to be whether there is a “legitimate business purpose” to the expense. Paying for the official’s visit to the U.S. to tour business-related facilities seems to be okay, including some entertainment expenses. But paying for the official’s trip to Las Vegas for a gambling excursion could be a bribe if it is an attempt to curry favor and has not legitimate purpose.
The Justice Department considers foreign corruption to be a high priority, the assistant attorney general for the criminal division said. Hopefully this resource guide will prevent some U.S. businesses from inadvertently violating the law and find themselves facing litigation.
Source: The New York Times, “Justice Dept. Issues Guidance on Foreign Bribes,” Charlie Savage, Nov. 14, 2012
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