Monday, February 21, 2011

President's Day

Today is President's Day.

This post highlights the role of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and William Clinton in enactment and subsequent development of the FCPA.


After watching Congress investigate and hold hearings on the foreign payments problem for approximately nine months, in March 1976 President Ford issued a “Memorandum Establishing the Task Force on Questionable Corporate Payments Abroad” (see here).

The great debate at this time was whether the foreign payments problem should be addressed through a disclosure regime or through a criminalization regime. The Ford Administration favored the former and in June 1976, Ford released “Remarks Announcing New Initiatives for the Task Force on Questionable Corporate Payments Abroad.” (see here). As noted in the remarks, Ford directed the task force "to prepare legislation that would require corporate disclosure of all payments made with the intention of influencing foreign government officials."

Certain bills were introduced in Congress consistent with Ford's vision and in August 1976 Ford issued “Foreign Payments Disclosure – Message From the President of the United States Urging Enactment of Proposed Legislation to Require the Disclosure of Payments to Foreign Officials.” (see here).

Neither Ford's proposal, or any other, was enacted by Congress prior to the 1976 elections in which Ford was defeated by Jimmy Carter.


Unlike the Ford Administration, the Carter administration favored the criminalization regime that was under consideration in the prior Congress and a movement that soon picked up speed when Congress reconvened in January 1977.

Certain members of the Carter administration testified at Congressional hearings throughout 1977 in favor of the criminalization regime and in December 1977, S. 305 (the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 and the Domestic and Foreign Investment Improved Disclosure Act of 1977) was presented to President Carter.

On December 20, 1977, President Carter signed S. 305 into law - see here for his signing statement.


As noted in this previous post, President Reagan's administration very soon sought decriminalization of foreign payments subject to the FCPA. During the Reagan administration (1981-1989), numerous efforts were made in Congress to amend the FCPA. Soon after the FCPA was enacted, it was widely recognized that the FCPA had addressed a serious problem, but that the statute created much uncertainty and was, in the minds of many, unworkable.

Among other things, the FCPA antibribery provisions enacted in 1977 contained a broad knowledge standard (“reason to know”) applicable to indirect payments to “foreign officials”; (ii) did not contain any affirmative defenses; and (iii) did not contain an express facilitating payments exception. Beginning in 1980, various bills were introduced - either as stand alone bills or specific titles to omnibus trade and export bills - that sought to amend the FCPA. This legislative process took eight years.

In August 1988, President Reagan signed H.R. 4848 the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988. Title V, Subtitle A, Part I of the Act was titled “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Amendments.” President Reagan's signing statement does not refer to the FCPA amendments buried in the omnibus trade bill. Among the amendments were a revised knowledge standard applicable to indirect payments and the creation of affirmative defenses and an express facilitating payment exception.


In November 1998, President Clinton signed S. 2375, the "International Anti-Bribery and Fair Competition Act of 1998." Among other things, the Act amended the FCPA by (i) creating a new class of persons subject to the FCPA - "any person" not an issuer or domestic concern to the extent such person's bribery scheme has a U.S. nexus; and (ii) creating a new alternative nationality jurisdiction test for U.S. issuers and domestic concerns.

See here for President Clinton's signing statement.

Will President Obama play a role in FCPA history?

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