Second Circuit Issues Rare Decision Interpreting the FCPA

August 29, 2018

On August 24, 2018, the Second Circuit in United States v. Hoskins issued a decision limiting the FCPA’s reach, holding that foreign nationals who cannot be convicted as principals under the FCPA also cannot be held liable for conspiring to violate or aiding and abetting a violation of the statute.

The decision, written by Judge Pooler (joined by Chief Judge Katzmann and Judge Lynch, who also wrote a concurring opinion), concluded that, due to affirmative legislative policy and extraterritoriality concerns, the FCPA’s reach cannot be extended via conspiracy or complicity liability to implicate individuals who cannot violate the FCPA as principals. Although the decision limits the government’s ability to prosecute foreign nationals for conspiring to commit or aiding and abetting a violation of the FCPA, practically speaking, the decision will apply only to a small class of foreign nationals and entities – those who engaged in a bribery scheme in which there is otherwise jurisdiction under the FCPA, but who are not themselves subject to the FCPA’s jurisdiction.

That said, the ruling is significant as one of the few cases limiting the FCPA’s jurisdiction due to the statute’s unique, extraterritorial nature, which may encourage charged defendants in other cases to challenge the DOJ’s broad interpretation of its jurisdiction.

This article was republished by the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation.