Since then, he’s been hunting for ways to cripple the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The FCPA, passed after Watergate, was a trailblazing law. It said that bribes were illegal not only when paid to U.S. officials, but also when paid to foreign ones. That is, people or entities that operate in the United States (whether or not they’re American) can be held criminally liable here if they grease palms in, say, China.
In criminalizing the payment of bribes in foreign jurisdictions, the FCPA arguably made the United States the first country to significantly leverage its own market power to encourage more ethical business practices everywhere.
Some companies that had been routinely pressured for kickbacks abroad welcomed the law, saying that a well-publicized threat of U.S. punishment helps tie their hands. Other companies have complained that the FCPA puts them at a disadvantage relative to less scrupulous competitors. In the decades since the FCPA was passed, however, it has inspired international anti-corruption agreements and copycat laws in dozens of countries, which have helped to level the playing field.