Up until this past weekend, there was a very good chance that the average New York Times business page reader had never heard of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It’s the sort of law that the public ordinarily doesn’t have much reason to think about, even as it keeps corporate lawyers and c-suite executives tossing in their sleep. But thanks to the the paper’s damning investigation into Walmart’s cover-up of bribery at its Mexican subsidiary, this low-key statute is suddenly getting its turn in the spotlight.
The statute, generally referred to as the FCPA, was passed in 1977 and bans individuals and companies from bribing foreign government officials to win business or influence their decision making. Those who run afoul of the law can face large fines or prison time. For decades after it was enacted, it was barely used. But in the last five years, it has evolved from an obscure vestige of the post-Watergate era into into one of the most talked about and feared laws in America’s board rooms.
Just ask Walmart.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]