Anti-Corruption

U.S. law contains provisions related to anti-corruption.  One such law, the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), contains anti-bribery provisions prohibiting U.S. persons from making or offering to make corrupt payments (or bribes) to foreign officials to obtain or retain business, direct business to a particular party or otherwise obtain an unfair advantage. The business to be obtained or retained need not be with a foreign government or foreign government instrumentality, but may be private.  Moreover, the corrupt payments can take many forms, such as cash, expensive gifts, travel, meals or entertainment.

Columbia University’s Anti-Corruption Policy prohibits all members of the University community from engaging in any type of corrupt activity, including unlawful bribery of a government official or private person in connection with University activities.  This prohibition extends to persons acting on the University’s behalf, such as agents, attorneys, and consultants.  The University’s Anti-Corruption policy provides guidance to the University community on how to recognize and respond to situations that may involve corruption.  Members of the University community are expected to review and comply with the University’s Anti-Corruption Policy.

Columbia University's Anti-Corruption Policy is available on Columbia's Administrative Policy Library website.

The FCPA prohibits offering to pay, paying, promising to pay, or authorizing payments of money or anything of value to a foreign official in order to influence the foreign official’s actions or decisions or to secure an improper advantage in order to obtain or retain business.  The corrupt payment, or bribe, can take many forms, including but not limited to cash (which may be in the guise of “commissions” or “consulting fees”), expensive gifts, travel or entertainment.   

The FCPA applies to payments with corrupt intent – that is, payments intended to influence a foreign official to use his or her position to assist in obtaining or retaining business, direct business to a particular party, or otherwise gain a business advantage.  Examples include corrupt payments to influence the procurement process, reduce import duties, or circumvent licensing or permit requirements.  

Members of the University community may not offer or make payments to a foreign official with the intent of:

  • Influencing the individual's acts or decisions;
  • Inducing the individual to violate his or her lawful duty;
  • Obtaining any improper advantage; or
  • Inducing the forein official to use his or her influence improperly.

Failure to comply with the FCPA can result in serious consequences for both the University and the individuals involved.  These consequences may include civil penalties, loss of funding, suspension or debarment from contracting with the federal government, reputational harm, and criminal prosecution.

Failure to comply with the FCPA can result in serious consequences for both the University and the individuals involved.  These consequences may include civil penalties, loss of funding, suspension or debarment from contracting with the federal government, reputational harm, and criminal prosecution.

  • A Country’s Corruption Risk:A history of corruption in the country is a red flag!Transparency International publishes an annual “Corruption Perceptions Index” which measures and reports the perceived levels of public section corruption worldwide.For information about a country’s corruption risk, see https://www.transparency.org/.
  • Proposed selection of a vendor or service provider based on the recommendation of a governmental official or other person with responsibility for or influence over the award of a grant, contract, or gift;
  • An unusual payment pattern or financial arrangement (for example, an entity offers to sponsor or pay for programming for another entity’s employees);
  • A party’s refusal to agree in writing not to violate applicable anti-corruption laws;
  • Lack of transparency in expenses and accounting records;
  • Apparent lack of qualifications to perform the services offered;
  • Last minute changes to contracts, payment terms or contracting parties;
  • A foreign official’s request for payments for side trips, first-class travel, or arrangements for spouses or children;
  • Lack of transparency regarding business arrangements and payments.

All dealings with foreign officials should have a documented legitimate purpose, such as making fair payment for services actually provided and hosting events and conferences in accordance with routine University practices.  Applicable contracts and agreements should reflect the actual business arrangements.  All proposed contracts and gifts should go through routine and appropriate University channels and have a documented legitimate purpose. 

Columbia personnel should maintain accurate and current financial records of transactions and projects and should conduct due diligence on vendors, agents, partners, etc., especially in countries with a history of corruption or where such third parties have been recommended by government officials. 

Any instances where a corrupt payment has been requested by a private or public official should be reported to a person’s direct supervisor or other University official with management responsibility for the subject activity.  In addition, all such instances should be reported to the University’s General Counsel.

If you have questions about the FCPA, Columbia’s Anti-Corruption Policy, or corruption “red flags”, or if you would like to schedule an Anti-Corruption training, please contact Michelle Avallone (mla25@columbia.edu, 212-851-9822) or Columbia's Office of General Counsel.

If you would like to anonymously report or seek guidance on a possible compliance issue, you may contact the University Hotline at (866) 627-3768 or http://www.compliance.columbia.edu/hotline.html

A Resource Guide to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is available on the U.S. Department of Justice’s website.

Columbia University’s Anti-Corruption Policy is available on Columbia’s Administrative Policy Library website.