Client Alert 07 Feb. 2022

DOJ Issues FCPA Advisory Opinion on Payments Made under Duress

On January 21, 2022, the US Department of Justice (DOJ or Department) issued a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) advisory opinion regarding a crisis in which the naval forces of an unnamed country had detained the captain and crew of a vessel owned by a US-based company. Their release hinged on the company’s provision of a substantial cash payment to an intermediary who was, at least potentially, working on behalf of one or more government officials. The opinion concluded that a ransom-like payment to a third party to facilitate the release of an unlawfully detained ship captain is not considered a bribe under the FCPA because of “unusual and exigent circumstances.”

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