USC Office of Compliance

Overview of the FCPA

Congress enacted the FCPA in 1977 in an attempt to stop the bribery of foreign officials in order to secure some type of favorable action by a foreign government and/or foreign governmental officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business.  By 1997, all thirty-three other countries who are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) adopted similar regulations.  For a current list of OECD members, visit
In general, there are six elements that must be present in order to show an FCPA violation:

  • The company must be based in the United States or traded on a United States stock exchange.
  • The payment in question must be made to a foreign official (including any employee or a foreign government regardless of level), a foreign political party or party official, or any candidate for foreign office; or executives and other employees of state-owned or controlled businesses (including, for example, a professor at a state-run university).
  • A payment or offer of payment of money or anything else of value, including gifts and excessive meals, hospitality, entertainment, travel expenses, or favors (i.e. an internship for a family member outside the normal hiring process or admittance to an educational program outside the normal admission process because of the student’s relationship to a foreign official).
  • The payment must be for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business, even if the business relationship is not with a foreign government or foreign government-controlled entity.
  • The person making the payment must intend to induce the recipient to misuse his or her official position to direct business to the business on whose behalf the payment is made.
  • The company must know or be aware of a high probability that an improper payment was made.

The FCPA applies to all university employees as well as all USC partners and other third parties that may be engaged to represent USC’s interests in a foreign business transaction.