In just two decades, enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) has evolved from a backwater of corporate and international financial crime to one of the most prominent and feared laws in those fields. What accounts for the ten-fold increase, over just 15 years, in the annual FCPA case volume produced by United States enforcers?
The authors explain the development as arising from a confluence of independent but nonetheless symbiotic international and domestic political and economic forces. First, in the international arena, policymakers dramatically shifted their beliefs in the harms from bribery. This change and the continuous American pressure to conclude an anti-bribery treaty created a new consensus among major exporting countries to criminalize foreign bribery. This opened up new political and institutional paths to pursue the supply of foreign bribes. Second, U.S. enforcement lawyers eagerly pursued these newly available paths, propelled by political pressure and professional considerations. Third and inevitably, a large and active FCPA defense bar emerged that, perhaps ironically, helps keep primed a now steady pump of FCPA actions into the U.S. corporate enforcement system. A fourth stage has begun in which other nations, particularly in Europe, are both assisting and competing with the U.S. in the field of anti-corruption enforcement. It remains to be seen how this latest development will, over the longer haul, affect the size of the global market for anti-corruption enforcement and the U.S. share of that market.