Friday, June 4, 2010

How to Bribe a Foreign Official

In a past life I was a lawyer, and practiced at one of the large firms in downtown Boston. And they have some idea of keeping in touch with their alumni (in this case a fancy word for former employees). So the latest is an invitation to a reception next Thursday:

Come and enjoy an opportunity to reconnect with former [firm] lawyers who are counsel to public and private companies and investment managers. Our social gathering will begin with a brief presentation on recent developments in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act compliance and enforcement.

Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres will be served.

That sounds like fun. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is a law the U.S. Congress passed in the 1970s to prevent U.S. companies from bribing officials in foreign countries to win or keep contracts and other business advantages. U.S. companies object that this puts them at a disadvantage to foreign companies. "If it's not against Absurdistan law to bribe the President of Absurdistan," the argument goes, "why should it be against U.S. law?"

And how would one go about bribing a foreign official while staying in full compliance with U.S. law? I'm pretty sure that it starts with a cocktail and maybe some hors d'oeuvres.

Or maybe not, the Congressional ethics rules have been tightened up to forbid such things, so maybe they decided if they can't get a free cocktail, neither should any foreign official. But I've also heard that wining and dining Congress is still legal so long as you don't have to sit down to eat it. So you're good if you can take your three martinis standing up.

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