Foreign Bribery in Wildlife Trafficking

Corruption is one of the most critical factors enabling illicit wildlife trafficking.

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The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is a U.S. law that prohibits publicly traded corporations, both U.S. and international, from paying bribes to foreign officials and mandates proper financial record-keeping. The FCPA applies to issuers, domestic concerns, or persons acting within the U.S. The U.S. government has successfully prosecuted many foreign nationals and foreign corporations under the FCPA, and has issued millions of dollars in rewards to both U.S. and non-U.S. whistleblowers.

The FCPA’s Anti-Bribery Provision prohibits the offer, authorization, promise or payment of anything of value to a foreign official, international organization official, political party, party official, or candidate for public office to obtain or retain business. 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1, et seq. (“FCPA”).

Whistleblower Rewards and the FCPA

In 2010, as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, whistleblowers obtained protections for raising allegations of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations. As amended by the Dodd-Frank Act, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act’s power to protect whistleblowers and combat corruption is truly remarkable.

President Obama signed this legislation which permits whistleblowers, including foreign nationals, to apply for monetary rewards based on reporting bribery prohibited under the FCPA. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act mandates that the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) pay whistleblowers monetary rewards if they provide the U.S. government with information that leads to the successful enforcement of the FCPA. The Act is applicable even if bribes are paid in a foreign country and the whistleblower is a foreign national.

Whistleblowers are eligible to receive an award between ten and thirty percent of the total amount recovered by the government if a successful enforcement action follows their disclosures. The FCPA also allows whistleblowers to file claims anonymously, reducing the risk of retaliation. Furthermore, the Dodd-Frank Act’s anti-retaliation provisions also provide protection for employees who work in the United States and blow the whistle on FCPA violations.

Using Anti-Corruption Laws to Fight Wildlife Crime

Wildlife trafficking and related wildlife crimes often involve FCPA violations. For example, if a publicly traded shipping company bribed an official at a Kenyan port so that the company could load ivory (or illegal timber, etc.) onto the ship without the official interfering, this would be a violation of the FCPA.

The NWC’s Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program is harnessing robust anti-corruption and anti-fraud laws including the FCPA and False Claims Act, to combat the widespread corruption driving the global illegal wildlife trade.

For an overview of the impact of whistleblowing on corruption and its potential impact on wildlife crime, read Monetary Rewards for Wildlife Whistleblowers: A Game-Changer in Wildlife Trafficking Detection and Deterrence (Environmental Law Reporter, 2016).Corruption is one of the most critical factors enabling illicit wildlife trafficking. See also, Empowering whistleblowers is the key to combating wildlife crime.

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