The Corporate Lab Clinic Hosts Conference on the Challenges of Complying with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

Kara Danielle Hughley, '13
June 12, 2012

In the Corporate Lab Transactional Clinic (“Corporate Lab”), students work on “real-world”
projects for major corporations. The Corporate Lab faculty, Dean David Zarfes and Lecturers Michael L. Bloom and Sean Z. Kramer, ensure that the students have the opportunity to take part in projects on the cutting-edge of corporate practice. Last year, several students in the Corporate Lab wrote a special report on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) as part of their work for John Frank of the Microsoft Corporation. The report, Complying with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: A Practical Primer, was published in January of this year by the American Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section, Global Anti-Corruption Task Force and served as the impetus for a conference held by the Corporate Lab at the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center on Thursday, May 3, 2012.

The conference, FCPA Corporate Compliance Programs and Third-Party Vetting: Toward a Determination of Compliant Practices, was designed to engender productive dialogue around provisions of the FCPA that practitioners have struggled to understand and implement. The Department of Justice has committed to providing some form of additional guidance, which will likely be released soon. In the meantime, practitioners are anxious to see whether the released guidance will fully address their concerns.

The conference brought together representatives from the Department of Justice, senior in-house corporate and compliance counsel, and outside counsel. The unique format charged each participant with presenting on one of seven topics including corporate policy, vetting third-party representatives, and defining state owned enterprises. This format resulted in lively and productive discussions, which went a long way toward teasing out the ambiguities and challenges of the FCPA and determining potential, reasonable approaches to compliance.

The conference closed with an all-participant roundtable discussion moderated by Assistant United States Attorney and Lecturer in Law at the Law School, Andrew S. Boutros (acting in his individual capacity). Mr. Boutros led an engaging, thought-provoking back-and-forth dialogue, which had virtually all of the conference’s attendees (both industry experts and students alike) actively joining in on the discussion.  As part of that dialogue, Mr. Boutros honed in on the key points discussed throughout the conference, facilitated the exchange of ideas and reasonable practices solutions, and synthesized the day’s conversations with some final thoughts.

Next quarter, students in the Corporate Lab will write a series of practical papers addressing the ambiguities highlighted at the conference.