Matthew J. Feeley, a shareholder in the Litigation Section of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney's Miami office, was featured in two recent Latin Business Chronicle articles. Both articles, published June 28, 2010, focused on the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the growing focus on it in Latin America.

As noted in the article, titled "More FCPA Cases in Latin America," "Experts are seeing more cases of U.S. companies violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in Latin America. The FCPA prohibits U.S. companies and their executives from making payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business. Violations may result in criminal penalties."

Feeley weighed in saying, "I have noticed an increase in FCPA cases in Latin America over the last few years." The article went on to note that "Feeley and other experts say the increase is in large part due to growing enforcement by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission."

Additionally, Feeley addressed the fact that U.S. companies risk FCPA violations by simply entering a new market and not understanding the risk local customs may present.

"In Latin America, many of the grey areas of FCPA violations are tied to business and social culture," he said. "For example, what might be considered an expected business gift by your local employees might be a serious FCPA violation under U.S. law. A company cannot begin to identify FCPA risks, and protect against them, until it understands the cultural norms of a particular country. Most of your employees will not intend to violate the FCPA; they will do so because they consider the offending conduct to be a cultural compulsion. A company must take the time and make the effort to understand the culture in which it is operating. After having a grasp of the culture, a company must implement a consistent training and compliance program."

In a supplement to the article, Feeley joined other experts in sharing advice on how U.S. companies can avoid violating the FCPA in Latin America. As noted in the Q&A-style article, titled "How to Avoid FCPA Violations in Latin America," Feeley was asked "What advice do you give companies just starting operations in Latin America on how to avoid violating the FCPA?"

According to Feeley, "To address FCPA risks, any company starting operations in Latin American would be smart to focus on two efforts: (1) understanding the local business and social cultures and (2) implementing a rigorous and consistent training and compliance program. In Latin America, many of the grey areas of FCPA violations are tied to business and social culture. For example, what might be considered an expected business gift by your local employees might be a serious FCPA violation under U.S. law. A company cannot begin to identify FCPA risks, and protect against them, until it understands the cultural norms of a particular country. Most of your employees will not intend to violate the FCPA; they will do so because they consider the offending conduct to be a cultural compulsion. A company must take the time and make the effort to understand the culture in which it is operating. After having a grasp of the culture, a company must implement a consistent training and compliance program. Any employee, agent, or consultant with any potential to have contact with someone who might be considered a 'government official' must attend periodic FCPA training, and a system of checks and balances must be established to account for all expenses. All of these efforts should be well-documented to show a company's good faith efforts should an FCPA issue later come to the attention of the DOJ and/or SEC."

Additionally he was asked "What advice do you give companies that acquire firms that operate in Latin America that may have violated the FCPA?," "Have U.S. companies become more aware of the danger of violating the FCPA in Latin America compared to earlier?" and "Have you noticed an increase in FCPA cases in Latin America in the past year or past two years?"