FCPA Prosecution: Where Enforcement Borders on Extortion
Ross Andersen, J.D. Candidate
On September 15th, Tokyo's Bridgestone Corporation pled guilty to conspiracy to bribe government officials, a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA for short). The Department of Justice had charged Bridgestone with authorizing its local sales agents to bribe employees of state-owned entities in Latin America. As a part of its plea bargain, which also covered an antitrust violation under the Sherman Act, Bridgestone agreed to pay a fine of $28 million, a bargain by FCPA standards. Of course that figure doesn't begin to capture the considerable legal costs that attend FCPA cases. That's because FCPA prosecutions typically require companies to perform an extensive internal investigation in addition to the normal fees associated with a large-scale litigation against the Department of Justice. Bridgestone's case is hardly out of the ordinary. A quick web search will turn up scores of similar settlements, on account of a surge in FCPA prosecutions over the past decade. In fact, prosecutions have become so commonplace that several years ago a major Hollywood film followed the cat and mouse game between the Department of Justice and a law firm defending and investigating an FCPA charge. Needless to say, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is not the sort of statute that usually makes it to the silver screen. So why is FCPA prosecution suddenly so fashionable? As any skilled investigator knows, it's wise to follow the money.