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The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: Why It Fails to Deter Bribery as a Global Market Entry Strategy


Recent studies (Cragg and Woof, Bus Soc Rev 107(1):98–144, 2002; Weismann, J Bus Ethics 88:615–66, 2009) revealed that in the first 28 years of its existence, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act was not enforced by the federal government. The Weismann study further concluded that the FCPA, designed by Congress as a self-regulatory model of corporate governance, failed to achieve the regulatory goal of deterring global bribery by U.S. companies. The current article addresses the reasons that the FCPA remains an ineffective measure to control bribery as a global market entry strategy despite the highly publicized 2006 Department of Justice initiative to increase prosecutions and tighten enforcement efforts. The failure arises out of both the increased use of informal dispositions of case prosecutions, (including non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements), which has made “getting caught” merely an increased “cost of doing business” and the failure to close the regulatory gaps in the statute that permit violators to slip through the enforcement net. The article updates and compiles the case prosecution data for every reported case prosecuted between 1977 and 2011. That data are then compared to the results of a 2010 integrity risk survey performed by Deloitte Financial Advisory Services and Forbes which reveal a widely held global business perception that compliance and integrity risks appear to be rising sharply and that the FCPA is ineffective in deterring bribery and corruption in foreign markets. The article aims to serve as a predictive tool for policy makers and business professionals in assessing risk in the global markets, particularly as commerce intensifies in the BRIC countries, notable for bribery and corruption.

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  1. 1.

  2. 2.

    Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Amendments of 1988, Pub. L. No. 100-418, 5003(a), (c), 102 Stat. 1418, 1423–24 (1988).

  3. 3.

    Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, 15 U.S.C.§78dd-1,et.seq.

  4. 4.

    H. R Rep. No. 95-640 (1977),

  5. 5.

    While the U.S. tax code denies a tax deduction for bribe payments per se, “grease payments,” which remain legal under the FCPA, still qualify for favorable domestic tax treatment. Section 162(c)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code disallows deductions for illegal payments to officials or employees of any government. Facilitation payments, so-called grease payments, that are legal under the local law of a foreign jurisdiction may be deducted for tax purposes.

  6. 6.

    17 CFR 202.12 (2010).


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Correspondence to Miriam F. Weismann.



See Table 1.

Table 1 Case Prosecutions 2008-11

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Weismann, M.F., Buscaglia, C.A. & Peterson, J. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: Why It Fails to Deter Bribery as a Global Market Entry Strategy. J Bus Ethics 123, 591–619 (2014).

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  • Corporate governance
  • Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
  • Global ethics
  • Bribery
  • Self-regulation
  • Anti-corruption policy
  • Global risk assessment