White Paper: What You Should Know About Individual Liability Under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

The DOJ has made it clear to the world that the United States’ largest law enforcement agency considers the prosecution of individuals in corruption cases to be a priority. Over the past eight years, the DOJ has reinforced this commitment by charging dozens of individuals with the violation of bribery-related statutes, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”). In September 2015, the DOJ formalized its policies regarding the prosecution of individuals with the release of the “Yates Memo,” which targets individuals who engage in corporate wrongdoing.

Although the greatest share of FCPA enforcement activity continues to be directed against corporations, individuals must remain vigilant about their personal compliance with the statute. For individuals that work in companies that do business abroad, the risk of liability has increased significantly over the past decade. Certain individuals—executives, directors, sales and marketing managers, agents—face increased risks given the nature of their work, interactions with government officials and supervisory responsibilities. This risk increases dramatically for individuals working on high value projects in developing countries where corruption is more prevalent and the pressure to “make a deal” is higher. 

Despite the fact that the policies behind the FCPA are fairly straightforward, the statute’s legal framework is complex. This TRACE White Paper decodes the unique provisions of the FCPA related to the prosecution of individuals and focuses on the practical implications of recent enforcement policies and actions. 

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