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Walmart, the FCPA, and America’s Ability to Compete

Walmart’s alleged violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in Mexico raises the profile of the controversial law to a new level. Some U.S. businesses have long questioned whether the FCPA is an appropriate impediment to doing business abroad in a world where acceptable and widely practiced behavior is different in many countries. Walmart has become the new poster child for the issue, yet many would argue it was simply doing what most companies in Mexico do on a routine basis, without being punished. The line between what constitutes a bribe and a “grease payment” depends on the country, business culture, and context. For the U.S. government to attempt to apply America’s definition of what constitutes acceptable business behavior – in America – in a one-size-fits-all approach to doing business abroad makes little sense in a world where no single standard effectively applies — to anything, and it runs counter to the government’s stated objective of making American business more globally competitive.

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