The Intersection of Foreign Bribery and Wildlife Trafficking

Robust anti-corruption and anti-fraud laws such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and False Claims Act (FCA) can be used to combat widespread corruption driving the global illegal wildlife trade.

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What is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act?

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) is a U.S. law that targets corruption, and is often known as the law used to prosecute bribes paid abroad. 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”). It also mandates proper record-keeping.

The FCPA established U.S. jurisdiction for bribes paid in foreign countries by foreign nationals to foreign government officials.

Whistleblower Rewards and the FCPA:

In 2010, as part of the The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act , whistleblowers obtained protections for raising allegations of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations. The law, signed by president Obama, enhances the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act’s power to protect whistleblowers and combat corruption is truly remarkable.

As a result, the FCPA now has a robust whistleblower provision. Codified in U.S. law as 15 U.S.C. §§ 78m, 78dd, 78ff, the law permits rewards to whistleblowers who provide original information about bribes paid to foreign government officials by publicly-traded companies or U.S. persons. The law 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.

FCPA whistleblowers can obtain financial rewards of 10% to 30% of recovered sanctions, even if bribes are paid in a foreign country and the whistleblower is a foreign national. 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 U.S. and blow the whistle on FCPA violations. To learn more about the FCPA’s specific provisions, read the NWC’s comprehensive report on the law here.

FCPA whistleblower provisions are uniquely designed to protect non-U.S. citizens. The confidentiality provisions of the whistleblower law enable non-U.S. citizens to blow the whistle on bribery, while maximizing the potential that the corrupt officials, company, or otherwise will not learn their identity. Whistleblowers are compensated if their information results in a successful prosecution. They are paid directly by the United States government, and the company and/or officials they turned in may never even become aware that a whistleblower turned them in.

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.

  • From 2011 thru 2018, 3,305 whistleblowers from 119 countries have filed claims under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act whistleblower reward provision.
  • Over $30 million has been paid to non-U.S. citizens who reported bribes paid overseas.

The FCPA is particularly powerful because it extends U.S. jurisdiction to companies and individuals outside of U.S. borders. Examples of non-U.S. companies sanctioned under the FCPA include:

  • VimpelCom: $795 million
  • GlaxoSmithKline: $20 million
  • Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile: $30 million
  • LAN Airlines: $22 million
  • Novartis AG: $25 million
  • Alcalel-Lucent: $137 million
  • BAE Systems: $400 million
  • Hitachi: $19 million
  • Petróleo Brasileiro S.A:  $1.7 billion

To learn more about how the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has proven enormously successful with over four decades of data, read the NWC’s Report, A Comprehensive Overview of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which looked at data from every single FCPA case since its passage.

Whistleblowing Under the FCPA Works!

Whistleblowers play an integral role in keeping institutions honest, ethical, and safe, providing information to both law enforcement for prosecutions and to civil society for accountability to the public. Whistleblower tips are by far the most used detection method for U.S. agencies.

Statements from elected leaders, law enforcement officials who work directly with whistleblowers on the ground, and appointed leadership in the agencies that implemented whistleblower programs demonstrate high regard for whistleblowers. Statistics on the use of whistleblower tips by the relevant agencies verify their effectiveness. Given the nature of fraud and corruption, it’s not surprising that the SEC and DOJ find whistleblower provisions a crucial part of the success of the FCPA.

“[I]t makes no difference whether . . . the claimant was a foreign national, the claimant resides overseas, the information was submitted from overseas, or the misconduct comprising the U.S. securities law violation occurred entirely overseas.” — Kevin M. O’Neill, Deputy Secretary, Securities and Exchange Commission, Order Determining Whistleblower Award Claim

“Whistleblowers, whether they are located in the U.S. or abroad, provide a valuable service to investors and help us stop wrongdoing… This award recognizes the continued, important assistance provided by the whistleblower throughout the course of the investigation.” — Jane Norberg, Chief of the Office of the Whistleblower, Securities and Exchange Commission, Press Release on award to overseas whistleblower

Read more from the NWC’s FCPA report here.

International Whistleblowers! Translations in over a dozen languages of the FCPA pager by NWC are available to download here.

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 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, False Claims Act, and more, 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.

Confidentially Report Foreign Corrupt Practices Violations:

If you have information related to major violations of FCPA, submit a report using our secure, confidential intake form, and our attorneys will review your case for free. The Whistleblower Legal Assistance Program helps connect whistleblowers with legal whistleblower attorneys. You can get the help you need submitting the information you have to appropriate law enforcement officials and learn about your eligibility for monetary rewards under the law.

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