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The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Guidance

FCPA Best Practice

If you need equipment or materials at an international site, arrange to have them shipped ahead of time in order to avoid being pressured by foreign officials to make improper payments.  

"Foreign Official"

Defined broadly by the FCPA, this term includes, but is not limited to:

  • Customs officials

  • Local law enforcement, licensing, and permitting officials

  • Professors at government-sponsored universities

  • Healthcare professionals at government-sponsored hospitals

  • Advisors to ministries, government agencies, or government officials

  • Employees of a public international organization (such as the World Health Organization)

  • Family members of any of the above

“Anything of value” includes, but is not limited to, cash, gifts, favors, and services rendered (e.g., providing entertainment).  

Your Responsibilities

You, as an individual, are responsible for compliance with the FCPA. This may include responsibility for the actions of a third party, such as a logistics provider or customs broker, if retained by you to assist with shipments or interactions with customs officials.  

Violation of the FCPA can result in criminal penalties such as fines and imprisonment. The FCPA forbids employers (e.g., University of Michigan) from paying a fine on behalf of an employee.  Therefore, any financial penalty you incur under the FCPA, even if related to your work as a University of Michigan employee,is your personal responsibility alone.


  • Officials in any country, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection,  may inspect your belongings, including electronic content of computers, phones, tablets, and storage devices. They may take possession of these items for various periods of time—even permanently.

  • In recent years, requests for improper payments to foreign officials have been frequent across Africa, the Middle East, Asia (including China and India), Eastern Europe and Russia.

  • Some countries have import regulations that specifically prohibit travelers from bringing into those countries encrypted laptops or other mobile devices. Violations of those countries’ prohibitions could result in confiscation of your device by customs authorities and/or fines or other penalties.