The language of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is clear, as it prohibits providing anything of value to a foreign governmental official or employee of a state-owned enterprise. That phrase takes on new meaning when seen in the context of a recent New York Times article about corruption in China, which recited some of the exotic items that Chinese officials had received as bribes, including the well-known favorite: meat from the tail of a crocodile.
This description alone is worth the price of admission. “Zhang Jianjin, a former party secretary of a pharmaceutical company whose high living was paid for by businessmen seeking favors,” said he felt, “flattered to be treated to crocodile meat by a businessman.” Jianjin went on to detail, “He arranged for a crocodile tail, and it was a big one, more than three feet long.” It was laid out in a crescent shape and looked real nice. But I thought it was probably very expensive and had to be ordered in advance.”
Most compliance practitioners would not consider crocodile meat as anything of value under the FCPA, but clearly this Chinese government official had a soft spot if not sweet tooth for such a delicacy. The point is clearly what is one person’s pedestrian plate of squirrel meat may be the Rocket J. Squirrel of all delicacies in another part of the globe. Bribes can always take the form of good old fashioned cash, but they could also be an item that compliance practitioners in western countries do not consider something of value.
The article referenced other officials who received briefcases with $20,000 to $30,000 worth of cash. And others had wives with millions worth of jade and other precious stones. But never forget that the test for violation of the FCPA is anything of value—even if that anything is something that might well repulse the CCO sitting at the corporate, home office in the United States.