FCPA Settlement, Internal Strife, and the 'Culture of Compliance'
28 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2012 Last revised: 28 Mar 2012
Most enforcement actions brought against firms under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) are resolved via a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) or non-prosecution agreement (NPA). But before federal regulators will consider negotiating over these types of settlement vehicles, they typically weigh a firm's willingness to cooperate with the underlying investigation and whether it promoted a "culture of compliance." As this paper shows, these two factors do not always intersect in ways that serve the best interests of firms at risk for FCPA scrutiny. Cooperation often means asking company counsel to identify individual agents responsible for the alleged wrongdoing. If these agents are then disciplined or prosecuted in separate actions, the resulting dynamic can lead to distrust between agents and counsel, a breakdown in internal communications, feelings of unfair treatment, and inappropriate levels of risk aversion - all of which are undesirable from a firm's perspective and can hinder efforts to maintain a law-abiding culture. These issues are not all new, but they take on particular significance in the FCPA context due to the often expansive way regulators interpret the FCPA, the complexities associated with the transnational nature of the underlying conduct, and the frequently blurry lines between permissible competitive activity and impermissible bribery. Though many firms may ultimately decide that the potentially negative effects of cooperation are worth the upside of settlement, it is essential that they and their counsel remain cognizant of these issues when designing internal compliance programs. Regulators, too, need to be aware of how their enforcement policies could hinder efforts at corporate self-policing.
Keywords: Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FCPA, Corporate Governance, Compliance, Settlement, Corporation
JEL Classification: K22, K14, K33, K42, L21
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation