The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: A giant leap or baby steps to reform?

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The 1972 break-in to the Watergate Democratic headquarters resulted in the first-ever resignation from the office of American President. It also uncovered the use of corporate funds by many US multinational companies, including some of its most prominent, to make illicit payments to domestic and foreign governments and companies. These payments went unreported by auditors and management. Senators Proxmire and Church and others sought to address this by strengthening the disclosure and accountability requirements of the Securities and Exchange Act by the passing of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). This article traces the legislative path of the FCPA by analysing the Congressional hearing transcripts using Moe's theory of political institutions and the theory of bureaucracies by Howell and Moe. The analysis demonstrates exertions of interests to maintain the status quo leading reformers to compromise and accept ‘baby steps’ rather than making ‘giant steps’ in order to achieve some regulatory reform.

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