USC Office of Compliance

Prohibited and Permissible Payments

The following types of payments are prohibited:

  • Any gift of cash or a cash substitute;
  • Anything that is offered as a quid pro quo (a payment in exchange for favor or advantage);
  • Any gift or entertainment that is illegal under the foreign country’s laws, or known to be prohibited by the foreign official’s department, agency, or organization;
  • Anything that may have, or may be perceived as influencing the decision of anyone considered to be a foreign official;
  • Anything given to foreign officials associated with a tender or competitive bidding process where the University is involved;
  • Any inappropriate entertainment (such as entertainment that is illegal under local law or U.S. law);
  • Any travel, entertainment, or gifts to family members of foreign officials.

The following types of payments may be permissible assuming all requirements have been met and advance approval is obtained:

  • Facilitation payments for routine governmental action, such as visas and work orders; providing police protection, mail pick-up and delivery; providing phone service, power and water supply, loading and unloading cargo, or protecting perishable products; and scheduling inspections associated with contract performance or transit of goods across country.  The facilitation payment may only be made if it is legal and customary in the foreign country and no reasonable alternative to making the payment exists, and does not include any payment to influence a foreign official’s decision to do business with USC.
  • Payments for small gifts and entertainment as long as the payment is modest and isolated; consistent with reasonable business practice; is not a prohibited form of payment; and is made only to build or maintain a business relationship and not to influence the recipient’s objectivity.

The line between a permissible facilitation payment and a payment that is unlawful under the FCPA is murky.  Even charitable donations can in some circumstances be considered a bribe that violates the FCPA.  Therefore, always reach out to the Office of Compliance for assistance in this area.