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Harry Cassin
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Editor Emeritus

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Question: Are there ever FCPA prosecutions for small bribes?

A reader asked if there have been any FCPA cases involving small bribes — say under $1 million. The answer is: Yes, lots of them.

Here’s a rundown of some of those “small bribe” enforcement actions.

The NCH Corporation declination with disgorgement last year was for a bribe of $44,545.

The bribe to PDVSA in US v Roberto Enrique Rinco Fernandez (2016) was $790,000.

The bribe in the Ralph Lauren Corp enforcement action (2013) was $538,000.

The bribe in the BizJet enforcement action (2011) was stated to be $565,000.

The bribe in the Tyco enforcement action (2012) was $488,479.

The bribe in the Orthofix enforcement action (2012) was $300,000.

The bribe in US v Data Systems & Solutions (2012) was $485,000.

The bribe in the Aon enforcement action (2011) was $865,000.

The value of the bribe in US v Tenaris (20111) was stated as “more than $32,140.”

The bribe in the Comverse Technology enforcement action (2011) was $536,000.

The bribe in Tyson Foods (2011) was about $350,000.

The bribe in the LatiNode cases was $545,039.

The bribe in Transocean (2010) was about $90,000.

The bribe in Pride International (2010) was about $800,000.

The bribe in Noble Corp. (2010) was $74,000.

The bribe in Universal Leaf (2010) was about $697,800.

The bribe in AGCO (2009) was about $553,000.

The bribe in Helmerich & Payne was about $173,000.

The bribe in US v Martin Eric Self (2008) was $70,350.

The bribe in Flowserve (2008) was $778,409.

The bribe in Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies (2008) was $170,542.

And so on . . . . .

The list isn’t exclusive.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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  1. Interesting to note also that even the smallest bribes can lead to significant internal investigations costs. I am thinking of Veraz Network who settled for 300,000 USD for a 40,000 USD bribe but spent 2.5 million USD investigating the issue!

  2. I must confess that when I read the title of this blog, I thought that small bribes referred to bribes say below 10'000 $ or less and not just below 1'000'000 $.

    In most countries of the world, and especially in countries where corruption is rampant, a bribe of 100'000 $ is a huge bribe and a bribe of 10'000 $ is already a large bribe. According to my experience, 50'000$ will easily buy you e.g. a judge in many countries.

    The issue of small bribes seems to me to relate to facilitation payments rather than to bribes below 1'000'000$. Although there is not fixed figure for facilitation payments it is generally admitted that they are rather small payments, much below 10'000$. They are increasingly viewed as bribes notwithstanding the FCPA exemption. The UK Bribery Act does not permit them nor does ISO 37001- Anti-Bribery Management Systems consider them as acceptable. Although prosecution in the UK or elsewhere is unlikely for a single facilitation payment of 100$ in a faraway country, an accumulation of such payments may well lead to prosecution. This was the case in the Panalpina case and I have personally seen a case where payments of 80$ were made to a harbor official in order to get a form stamped. That looked somewhat innocuous but at the end of the year these payments amounted to 350'000$ which is quite another story.

  3. The bribes in the Kay case, way back when, were small, even in the aggregate, paid to on-the-docks customs officials (allegedly) to circumvent customs duties. That led to what was at the time, and I believe still, one of the longest sentences for an individual under FCPA (Mr. Murphy, the co-defendant). At the trial court it was argued (initially successfully) that these payments didn't fit into the elements of the statute, and later that they were facilitating payments. All to no avail. My memory now is fading on the total amount alleged, but it was not seemingly worth the prosecution.

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