Articles

Questionable Transactions, Unquestionable Rules: The Odebrecht/Braskem Case and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

L. SCOLLO, M. M. WINKLER

Diritto del Commercio Internazionale

2017, vol. XXXI, n°3, pp.521-542

Departments: Tax & Law, GREGHEC (CNRS)


This article offers a critical analysis of the Odebrecht/Braskem case under theForeign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA ). Two Brazilian companies, Odebrecht S.A.and its subsidiary Braskem S.A., have been caught in a massive bribery machinethat concerned Brazil as well as many other countries, including Switzerland andthe United States. Not only did these companies create a true consortium throughwhich they controlled Brazil’s public procurement system in a way to adjudicateand make profit out of multibillion projects in South America and abroad, but theyalso exploited the U.S. financial market to transfer money to corrupt public officers.The two companies cut a deal with the U.S. prosecutors under the FCPA, which thearticle comments in two parts. First, it recounts the case’s factual background,casting a light on the companies’ business models and corrupt conduct. The secondpart delineates the legal arsenal underlying the deal signed with the U.S. prosecu-tors, which reflects a consolidated practice of the U.S. government to prosecutenon-American multinational enterprises pursuant to the FCPA. Such practice isbased on the broad discretion enjoyed by U.S. federal prosecutors in exercising their prosecutorial power, which includes the possibility to halt or defer theprosecution upon the condition that the defendant pays a penalty and submits to certain compliance and self-reporting obligations. Through the FCPA, they cantarget foreign corporations whose bribery scheme involved, even indirectly, theU.S. financial market. Finally, the Odebrecht/Braskem case represents the firstexample of a deal that was indirectly participated by foreign governments, whosesanctions were considered part of the deal itself


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