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Foreign corrupt practices: Is that a bribe?

The extensive reach of the US FCPA.

(This article appears courtesy of International Financial Law Review, sign up for a free trial on their site

You are the CEO of a Norwegian oil and gas company who is eager to expand the company's business internationally. After some hesitation, you approve a senior executive's request for the company to enter into a consulting contract with an Iranian official with close ties to the head of the government ministry responsible for awarding rights to develop Iran's oil and gas resources. Payments are to be routed through a New York bank to a bank account in Switzerland. The consulting arrangement sets off some warning bells in your head, but you assume the company's risks are mitigated by the fact that you're dealing with Norway and Iran – countries not known for aggressive anti-bribery enforcement (in fact, you don't even know whether Iran has an anti-bribery law). So, flashing forward a few years: how does your company end up paying $21 million in penalties and disgorgement to United States authorities?

The answer is simple and should be well known to companies around the world – particularly Statoil, the prosecution of which the above hypothetical is based.

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