Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



Congress advocates the position that foreign bribery in a commercial context contributes to foreign relations problems, a perception of corporate immorality, and erosion of the free market system. By enacting the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA), the United States initiated a unilateral attack on the problem of commercial bribery abroad. Commentators frequently criticize the FCPA's unilateral approach, noting that it places United States companies at a competitive disadvantage overseas.

It is generally recognized that multilateral support is necessary before significant progress can be made in halting the prevalent practice of payments to foreign officials for business advantages. In fact, one of the purposes of the FCPA was "to strengthen the United States position in negotiations concerning bilateral and multilateral antibribery agreements." By promulgating a Draft International Agreement on Illicit Payments (Agreement), the United Nations has presented a vehicle whereby a concerted attack on questionable payments can be launched. The FCPA and the Agreement have the same basic aim--to discourage illicit payments in an international context. Additionally, both use a combination of disclosure and criminalization to achieve their goal. There are, however, significant differences between the Agreement and the FCPA. These possible areas of conflict must be examined and weighed against the need for an international approach before the United States extends its support of the Agreement.

This Note will provide an overview of both the FCPA and the Agreement. Additionally, it will examine the interface between the two measures, giving special attention to possible areas of contention.