Ignoring the Technicality’s Temptation: Interpreting the Citizenship of a Foreign Official Under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

Elizabeth Grant

This Comment argues that, while the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) excludes those with U.S. citizenship from being “foreign officials” to protect defendants from an ambiguous criminal statute, businesses should structure compliance programs to treat “foreign officials” as including those with U.S. citizenship. The FCPA prohibits bribing “foreign officials,” but it does not define the word “foreign” or give any guidance to what citizenship the official must have to fall under the FCPA. This Comment answers that question by identifying how a court would use past approaches to interpret the term “foreign” to include actors with U.S. citizenship, but ultimately would adopt a defendant’s narrow definition under the statutory construction rule of lenity. This Comment then argues that businesses should consider this loophole nonexistent for compliance program purposes.

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