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Foreign bribery whistleblowing

When all the money and legitimate influence in the world can’t get what you want, some of the world’s less scrupulous – and wealthier – individuals will resort to one tried and true, illegal method that has been ongoing as long as humans have had money: bribery.

Foreign bribery schemes can involve any different type of organization – from construction firms bribing real estate companies to earn building rights to a new development, to medical device companies bribing pharmaceutical companies to sell their products and not their competitors. When these illicit money exchanges change hands across international borders, it becomes a much more serious matter.

These bribery schemes can become massive, such as a global construction bribery network that involved shuffling around $788 million in illegal bribes to executives and foreign diplomats around the world in order to illegally gain an advantage and win business deals. The companies involved are on the hook for about $3.5 billion in penalties.

All acts of foreign bribery are illegal under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), enforced by the United States Department of Justice.

“Specifically, the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA prohibit the willful use of the mails or any means of instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance of any offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of money or anything of value to any person, while knowing that all or a portion of such money or thing of value will be offered, given or promised, directly or indirectly, to a foreign official to influence the foreign official in his or her official capacity, induce the foreign official to do or omit to do an act in violation of his or her lawful duty, or to secure any improper advantage in order to assist in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person.”

The Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) may also become involved when any United States business or individual engages in an illegal payment to a foreign official, foreign political party or candidate for political office for the purpose of gaining influence or securing some type of advantage they wouldn’t have without the bribe.

As with other acts of illegal misconduct, foreign bribery whistleblowing programs exist to facilitate the identification and prosecution of criminals who attempt to utilize bribery, and reward the individuals who take the risk to shine a spotlight on their illegal activity.

The SEC may offer as much as a 30 percent award to a whistleblower, through its Whistleblower Act, for actions that lead to the unveiling of a foreign bribery scheme. In the case of a large bribery scandal, like the one mentioned above, this reward could be astronomical for a whistleblower or team of whistleblowers.

Becoming a whistleblower isn’t a straight-forward process though, and can result in serious consequences if a claim is filed incorrectly or wastes resources that don’t lead to a conviction. As a result, it is important to have the guidance of an experienced legal team to help you navigate the process. Also, if you wish to remain anonymous in your claim out of fear of consequences from those you are blowing the whistle on, this is only possible if you file with legal representation.

The Department of Justice also has their own procedures for handling violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and can be viewed here.

If you have information pertaining to a foreign bribery scheme, it is vital that you consult with experienced legal professionals to figure out how to best move forward. At Altman & Altman LLP, we can provide that steady legal expertise specifically catered to your needs.

Call us for a free consultation today at 617-492-3000 or toll-free at 800-481-6199. We are available 24/7.

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