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Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Prohibit Foreign Officials from Demanding Bribes

joseph.moreno@cwt.com's picture
Commentary by Joseph Moreno

Congressional lawmakers introduced a bill that would update the federal domestic bribery statute by prohibiting foreign officials from demanding corrupt payments.

The proposed bill, known as the "Foreign Extortion Prevention Act," was introduced by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Representative John Curtis (R-UT), Representative Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Representative Richard Hudson (R-NC). If enacted into law, it would prohibit foreign officials from demanding, seeking, receiving, accepting or agreeing to receive or accept anything of value directly or indirectly in exchange for (i) the performance of any official act, or (ii) doing or not doing any act in violation of an official duty. Violators could be subject to a fine and a prison term of up to two years.

Commentary

While not an amendment to the FCPA, which focuses solely on the payor of bribes, the Foreign Extortion Prevention Act would address the flip side of a foreign corrupt payment by also imposing consequences on the recipient. Putting aside the real legal and logistical issues involved with exerting extraterritorial jurisdiction over foreign nationals, the bill would upend the traditional FCPA dynamic by introducing potential legal exposure for both sides of the transaction. It will be worth watching how the draft legislation proceeds from here. If enacted, it may be even more worth watching to see how the DOJ attempts to enforce the law against officers of a foreign government.

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