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fcpa foreign corrupt practices actThe Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) advisory opinion procedure allows domestic companies and companies listing securities on a U.S. national exchange to request an opinion from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on “whether certain specified, prospective—not hypothetical—conduct conforms with [the FCPA’s] antibribery provisions.” 28 C.F.R. 80.1. A “Requestor” that obtains an opinion condoning the prospective conduct is entitled to a rebuttable presumption that the conduct is in compliance with the FCPA. 15 U.S.C. §78dd-2(f). On Aug. 14, 2020, the DOJ issued an FCPA opinion (the Opinion) to an unnamed multinational investment advisory firm. It was the first FCPA advisory opinion issued in six years, and its release raised eyebrows in the legal and international business communities. The Opinion shed some light on circumstances in which the DOJ would consider a payment to a foreign-government-owned company to be a violation of the FCPA. While the Opinion may have been helpful to the requesting company, its usefulness to other companies is severely limited for a variety of reasons. More generally, using the FCPA advisory opinion procedure remains impractical and potentially even unwise in many circumstances.

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