In an announcement this week, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) took a strong stance against so-called “facilitation” or
“grease” payments allowed under anticorruption laws such as the U.S. Foreign
Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), but outlawed in most countries. The OECD is a
group representing the world’s 30 largest economies. It is an active and
well-respected player in helping develop and encourage the adoption of
anticorruption laws around the world.
In an interview this week, the OECD Secretary-General described these
low-level payments, designed to expedite performance of a “routine government
action” such as obtaining mail delivery, or phone or power service, as
“corrosive . . . particularly on sustainable economic development and the rule
These comments came as the OECD marked the 10th anniversary of its
Anti-Bribery Convention entering into force, with its member countries and eight
other signatory countries agreeing to “reinforce their efforts to prevent,
detect and investigate foreign bribery,” including a commitment to periodically
review policies and approaches to small facilitation payments.
As part of this week’s events, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
stated that the “United States fully supports the OECD’s anticorruption agenda,”
and continues working to bring more countries under the OECD Anti-Bribery
Very few countries other than the United States allow facilitation payments.
They have come under increasing fire as inconsistent with the totality of U.S.
policy on anticorruption, particularly in light of the current aggressive FCPA
Facilitation payments have long proved a difficult issue for U.S. companies
operating overseas, particularly in regions where everyday, low-level corruption
can impact business operations significantly. Although allowed under the FCPA,
corporations have increasingly restricted or banned their use by company
personnel. One of the primary reasons for this is a concern that even valid
facilitation payments could invite scrutiny from U.S. or foreign law
enforcement, or could result in books-and-records violations if not properly
McGuireWoods has attorneys with extensive experience dealing with FCPA and
other anticorruption issues, including defending investigations, conducting risk
assessments, audits and internal investigations, and designing and helping
implement overall and anticorruption-specific corporate compliance policies,
programs and training.