Bribery and corruption have long plagued the construction industry, particularly in the developing world and emerging markets. Large contracts often trickle down through layers of subcontractors, presenting opportunities for corruption at each level. The risk is enhanced in certain foreign jurisdictions, where large corporations may be wholly or partially state-owned enterprises and public officials may expect payment in exchange for state-issued licenses or government contracts.
Recent enforcement trends indicate that both the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are increasingly targeting the construction industry for anti-bribery and corruption actions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Several former DOJ officials also recently commented that the construction industry has become a focus of anti-corruption enforcement efforts.
The FCPA is a formidable tool for regulators, making it unlawful to influence a foreign government official with any type of payment or personal reward. While certain safe harbors apply — including de minimis payments made to expedite routine governmental action or the payment being lawful in the foreign jurisdiction — these exceptions are construed narrowly and can be difficult to apply in practice.
Reprinted courtesy of Ralph A. Finizio, Pepper Hamilton LLP and Anthony Finizio, Pepper Hamilton LLP
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