Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
Dentons Global
Mobility Guide
Multinational employers need to know the existing laws and the evolving legal trends
to compete in an international market where business transcends borders.
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
What is global mobility?
The importance of planning
Permanent establishment
and taxes
Employment relationships
International assignment
employment agreements
Data privacy
Global anti-corruption laws
Staff and our locations
About Dentons
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
Dear Reader,
The ability to move skilled workers globally is essential to
the success of the world economy and the companies
that drive it.
Global mobility is a complex topic, encompassing a
number of different legal disciplines. Laws vary by country
— even by localities within each country — with bilateral
and multilateral agreements and treaties often creating an
additional level of complexity. These rules create legal
obligations and make corporate compliance essential.
But with these obligations often come additional
opportunities for savvy lawyers to guide their clients
to the best result.
Employers must have access to the best and brightest
talent from around the world in order to keep growing
successfully. The laws impacting global mobility are
dynamic, and multinational employers need to know
both the existing laws and the evolving legal trends
to best compete in the international market. Dentons
professionals can provide that.
Our Global Mobility practice helps multinational employers
navigate the local laws of the countries where they do
business, including immigration, as well as employment,
compensation, tax, corporate compliance and other
related legal disciplines. Dentons’ network of offices
and qualified staff around the world provides you with
experienced legal resources — wherever and whenever
you need us.
Yours sincerely,
C. Matthew Schulz
Global Mobility Practice Chair
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
What is global mobility?
Global mobility n. support business needs that require personnel to move
across borders.
Business without borders
Business routinely transcends
borders. Business needs often require
personnel to move across borders to
support and expand operations or
manage strategic relationships, and
suddenly your small local company has
become a multinational, with suppliers,
business partners, customers and
personnel in many countries.
Even the best laid plans could go
awry. You may think that you diligently
planned your business entry into a
new country with due consideration
of the best legal structure to manage
tax and liability exposure, personnel
policies and employment agreements
that conform to local law — but
you could still find yourself liable
to the other country’s government
for corporate income taxes, payroll
taxes, fines and penalties for having
effectively established an office there
through the business activities of just
one employee in the country.
“Global mobility” minimizes the risks
for doing business internationally
by providing the legal framework to
identify and analyze business problems,
and develop and implement creative
solutions. Getting it right means getting
people to the right place at the right
time with the right advice.
Dentons’ Global Mobility
Dentons’ Global Mobility Guide
is the right resource for global
mobility specialists, human resource
professionals and in-house counsel.
There are important global mobility
issues to consider any time an
employee crosses borders. The
best — and only — approach is an
integrated strategy that address all of
the intertwined issues: immigration,
employment, compensation, employee
benefits, taxation and social insurance.
Moving personnel to new countries
requires the understanding and
handling of interconnected legal
issues and concerns. Dentons
provides integrated legal counsel on
personnel movement through the
firm’s vast network of locations
around the world. Dentons
collaborates with employers to devise
and implement staffing strategies
for global transfers. We provide local
counsel to support clients in all major
business communities.
Our network of lawyers and
professionals who focus on business
immigration, employment, employee
benefits and tax matters provide
pre- and post-assignment support
to ensure that visas are secured,
employment agreements are locally
enforceable, employee benefits
comply and satisfy legal and business
needs and taxes are appropriately
handled. Dentons is global, giving our
firm the unique ability to develop and
implement comprehensive global
mobility strategies and solutions.
Integrated approach
Dentons’ integrated approach to
global mobility services includes:
• Immigration, employment, employee
benefits and tax guidance and
case management for international
• Workplace trainings and compliance
audits, including counseling
and litigation defense related to
government recordkeeping and
enforcement actions to ensure
compliance with employers’
obligations to prevent unauthorized
employment and other rules.
• Regulatory and legislative advocacy.
• Timely delivery of important news
regarding proposed and pending
changes in global mobility best
• A host of other global mobilityrelated concerns, including moving
personal belongings, customs and
excise taxes, structuring business
operations abroad and corporate
and securities issues.
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
The importance of planning
Margie Mobility Manager started her planning as soon as she heard Danny Development Director
was looking into the establishment of an offshore development facility outside the United States.
She reviewed materials published by her human resource professional association, spoke with
friends who dealt with this at other companies and consulted the company’s legal advisers.
She obtained information about the local laws regarding immigration, employment, tax, etc.,
including estimates on processing times and costs. When the CEO considered Danny’s proposal,
Margie was able to save the company time and money by identifying the key issues and
suggested resolutions.
The development facility opened on schedule and under the leadership of the experienced
manager chosen by Danny, due in no small part to Margie’s plans, which had to be adjusted more
than once when management decided to accommodate the expatriate employee’s demand that
the family’s pony be included in the expatriate assignment package.
Global mobility is a race
Global mobility professionals should follow
the same advice given to race car drivers:
• Look ahead. There are many
potential obstacles to avoid. You
should know the entire course of
events — not just the next turn — in
order to achieve the most optimal
approach for the fastest and most
efficient processing time.
• Identify your options and
have a plan long before you
meet obstacles. Government
adjudicators, providers of key
documents like diplomas, passports
and birth/marriage certificates, flight
schedules, government holidays,
corporate reorganizations, mergers
and acquisitions, etc., are potential
obstacles that can lead you to
make choices that diverge from the
original line of approach.
• Pay attention to what happens
ahead of you and learn from it.
There are frequent changes. Monitor
proposed new laws and regulations.
Keep informed of processing times
and enforcement trends. Maintain
expatriate employee policies and
practices that adopt best practices
from the experiences of your prior
employee placements and the
experience of the professionals
advising you.
• Stay in control and do not let the
process drive you. Business needs
can change. Family needs of the
employee can change. You may
need to adapt to those changes, but
should do so in a controlled fashion
that keeps the process on course.
• Smoothness is king. Avoid radical
shifts in practices. Adapt and make
changes in a considerate fashion
that does not derail other parts of
the process.
• Advance planning is key. The
global mobility assignment process
is complex and, more often than
not, takes longer than expected.
Plan — plan early — and keep the
plan nimble.
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
Danny Development Director told Margie Mobility Manager the good news that he already had
“boots on the ground” in the destination country chosen for the new offshore development center.
“Eyal Expat, an experienced employee from headquarters, has been living there with his family to
handle site selection, negotiate office lease and supply contracts and even recruit new employees
to get the development center productive quickly.”
Margie quickly collected information about how much time Eyal and his family had already spent
in the destination country, their visa status and passports details and their activities to date. She
was able to use this information with legal counsel to determine if the company, and Eyal and
his family, were in compliance with local law and whether the activities to date would impact the
processing of the visas for the expatriate assignment. She also organized an internal training with
the management team on the importance of compliance with local immigration laws to protect
the company, as well as the employee and accompanying family.
Immigration laws balance a country’s
interests to promote the economy,
improve conditions for the populace,
and protect against foreign threats.
Attracting investment and key labor
skills often motivates business
immigration laws.
Countries tend to aggressively
enforce prohibitions against visa
overstays and unauthorized work.
The companies involved, as well as
foreign visitors, may be subject to a
range of civil or criminal penalties. It is
important to maintain documentation
of compliance to protect the ability
to secure visas and work permits, as
well as maintain a company’s public
reputation and stock value.
Requirements vary by country, but
there are common practices that make
it easier to plan international business
assignments. Countries tend to have
specific immigration laws to address
the needs of short-term travel on
business trips, training opportunities in
other countries and work assignments
of varying lengths. The permitted
activities, duration, source of
compensation, qualifying education/
experience/investment required,
etc., are often key distinguishing
characteristics. Special visa privileges
may be afforded to citizens of
designated countries by treaty.
Importance of planning
Do not rely on quick fixes that create
big problems in the future. Tourist
visas are for tourists and not business
travelers. Further, countries often
require visitors to depart and apply
for the proper visa at a consular post
outside the country — often in the
country of last residence.
Remember accompanying family.
There may be children in school, so
factor in academic terms, school
admission, language exams, etc.
Does the employee or any
accompanying family members plan
to drive? It is important to identify if or
for how long an international driving
license can be used, the requirements
and process to secure a local
driving license, including any
insurance requirements.
Will automobiles, furnishings or
other household possessions
be transported? Will electrical
components work in the destination
country? It is important to determine
how long delivery will take to know if
temporary rental/leasing is needed.
Are family pets making the move?
There may not be animal visas, but
there are restrictions, vaccinations,
quarantines and other controls.
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
Business travel visas
Often the same type of visa will
authorize travel for tourism and short
business visits, so long as the visit does
not involve productive employment.
Key factors to consider generally
include the scope of activities
planned in the destination country, the
citizenship of the employee, the source
of compensation during the trip and
the length of stay. (Length of stay and
source of compensation are often the
least important of these factors!)
In most countries, business travelers
are allowed to visit customers, attend
meetings, negotiate contracts and
carry out similar activities for the
benefit of the employer back home. In
contrast, most countries consider it a
violation of business traveler visa status
to engage in productive employment
that benefits the destination company,
including providing training, installing
or servicing equipment, etc.
The normal requirement to apply at
an embassy or consular post to have
a visa issued prior to travel is waived
by many countries for tourists and
short business travel. Visa waiver
benefits are usually based on bilateral
agreements between specific
countries and limited to citizens of
those countries. Departure tickets and
other requirements may still apply.
Training visas
Visas to authorize training assignments
are often available. Some permit the
trainee only to shadow local workers
to observe how work is performed or
for classroom-type settings. Others
may permit on-the-job training with a
productive work component.
Work assignment visas
Although there are many names and
types of work assignment visas around
the world, most countries have some
type of visa for:
• the transfer of experienced employees
between offices of multinational
companies in different countries;
• workers with desirable education
and skills; and
• investors and qualified employees
based on business investment.
The requirements for these visas differ
and there are often many other types
of visas designed to meet a specific
country's needs.
Work permits
Besides visas, some countries will
separately require a work permit for
travel on work assignments. Works
permit requirements differ by country,
often ranging from obligations
to provide appropriate working
conditions and compensation to
showing local workers are not available
and will not be displaced by the work
permit applicant.
Residence permits
Further, many countries also require
the employee to receive a residence
permit or otherwise register their new
address in the destination country with
local authorities. National security and
crime prevention are the common
rationale. Background checks for
criminal and military records are not
Accompanying family
Derivative visa benefits usually
facilitate the travel of qualified family
members. Who qualifies to accompany
the employee often depends on how
the destination country defines family.
While a spouse and unmarried children
generally qualify, the age by which
a child ceases to qualify and which
spousal relationships vary. Unmarried,
common law spousal relationships,
same sex partners, polygamous
relationships, etc., reflect the diversity
of what is acceptable (or not) around
the world. Family values in some
countries result in derivative visa status
being available for other members
of the employee’s household, such
as parents, older offspring and other
Additional issues
Concern about the spread of
contagious disease and health
care costs result in many countries
requiring medical and physical exams.
Translation of documents into the
language of the destination country is
normally required. The documents that
need to be translated vary, but often
include birth and marriage certificates,
academic transcripts and work
experience letters.
Some countries accept photocopies of
required documents that are certified as
accurate. Many countries require official
records be subjected to the apostille
process involving authentication by
both the government controlling the
issuing authority and the destination
country’s diplomatic post in the
destination country.
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
Permanent establishment
and taxes
The alarm bells started going off as soon as Margie Mobility Manager learned Danny Development
Director wanted to have Farokh Foreign Student continue to work on Release 3.2 after his
employment authorization ended and he left the country. Danny told Margie, “Don’t worry, Farokh
does not need a visa to work in his own country and does not need a visa to remain on the
company’s payroll after he departed the country. Easy peasy, this is how it is done, case solved!”
But Margie realized that Danny’s approach could expose the company to substantial liability
in Farokh’s country. She explained that directly employing Farokh could make the company
responsible for local payroll taxes on compensation paid and compliance with local employment
laws. She explained the risk of exposing the company’s income to income tax liability in Farokh’s
country as well. Margie suggested that they evaluate whether it would be better to structure the
relationship with Farokh as an independent contractor abroad or transfer his employment to the
development center entity the company had already established.
Impact of having a permanent
establishment in another
Companies sending employees
around the world risk tax exposure in
all the countries where employees are
sent. Not only long-term assignments,
but even short business trips can
create tax exposure for the company
for company income tax, as well as
payroll tax reporting and withholding.
Local tax authorities are likely to
assess income taxes on deemed
revenue arising in the country and
payroll taxes on the income paid
to employees whose efforts help
generate that revenue.
What is permanent
Business activities that result in
revenue being generated, regardless
of whether it is generated directly
in the country or through activity
in the country that contributes to a
company’s revenue, is likely to be
deemed by tax authorities as having
created a permanent establishment.
Permanent establishment may be:
• the head or the registered office,
as stated in a corporation’s charter
or bylaws;
• the principal place where a
company conducts business;
• any place where a company is
registered or licensed to do business;
• any fixed place of business;
• each place where a company
carries on a substantial portion
of the business;
• any place where, and at the time
when, the employees of a company
use substantial machinery or
• any place where employees
produce, grow, mine, create,
manufacture, fabricate, improve,
pack, preserve, process or
construct anything (in whole or
in part);
• any land or premises owned or
leased by a company; or
• any place where a business
carried on through an employee or
agent who has general authority
to contract for the company
or fill orders from a company’s
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
Employers should:
• Implement systems to manage the
business activities of employees
abroad to control the risk of
inadvertently creating a permanent
establishment in another country.
• Determine and comply with
company payroll tax reporting and
withholding requirements globally
by monitoring employee business
• Determine and comply with
company income taxes generated
by employee activities abroad.
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
Employment relationships
Danny Development Director selected Eyal Expat to manage the company’s new offshore
development center and Margie Mobility Manager was tasked with the job to “make it happen.”
Eyal was reluctant to exchange his current employment agreement with the rather more limited
package of employee benefits and modest compensation levels that were common at the
offshore center. In addition, Margie learned that termination with the current employer could
trigger some severance obligations that the company preferred to avoid.
She realized that the goals of the employer and employee could both be achieved through either
a secondment or dual employment arrangement, and consulted with legal counsel to learn how
either of these structures would impact visa eligibility, taxes and employee benefits.
Identify the employer(s)
What company will serve as the
employer for the employee sent to
another country? The answer depends
on how the employment relationship
is structured.
The key employment component
in managing global mobility is to
structure the employment relationship
to balance the business goals of the
assignment with the laws of each
country where the employee will travel.
Destination countries often impose
specific employment relationship
requirements to qualify for specific
visas, work and residence permits, as
well as to serve in top level positions,
such as managing director.
It can also arise where an employee
is recruited by the parent company in
one country for an assignment with a
subsidiary in another country.
Dual employment
Dual employment may be desirable
for tax planning to allow an employee
who works in more than one country
to benefit from better tax regimes.
Perhaps the most common relationship,
even if created unintentionally, is dual
employment, where the employee has
two or more employers concurrently.
Dual employment can be created
unintentionally where an employee’s
efforts benefit more than one
company. Multiple job titles and lines
of reporting are common attributes.
Properly structured, there should be
a separate employment agreement
per employer with the employee
that documents the lines of
reporting, duties, time allotment and
compensation. The employers will
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
each be responsible for the payroll tax
reporting and withholding compliance
in their own countries and should
review benefit plans to determine an
employee’s eligibility to participate.
The most logical relationship is the
transfer of the employee from one
employer to another.
Employment is terminated with the
original company and the employee
is hired by the new company in the
destination country. This transfers
future employment responsibilities
to the new company.
The potential problem with a
transfer arises from the termination
of employment with the original
company and resulting termination
obligations. There may be substantial
expenses as a result of severance,
vacation, benefits and other payouts
due on termination.
Secondment assignments
This is the relationship chosen
most often, but not always for the
best reasons.
A secondment is where the employee
remains employed by the original
company and “seconded” to provide
services to benefit the destination
company in another country. The
original employment relationship
continues, with modifications setting
forth the terms of secondment.
The cost of the secondment can
be allocated between the two
companies by agreement, taking into
consideration transfer pricing and
other tax obligations.
Secondment agreements should
address repatriation scenarios such
as whether the employee can request
an earlier return, what will happen if
the home country employer no longer
has an equivalent position available,
what will occur if the destination
country company no longer requires
the seconded employee’s services or
is not satisfied with the employee’s
job performance. Many secondment
agreements fail to consider these
eventualities, resulting in preventable
legal liability and/or litigation.
Employees tend to favor secondments
to maintain tax qualified retirement or
other existing employment benefits
when on assignment in the destination
The problem is that secondment
assignments are more likely to
subject the original company to
permanent establishment tax risks in
the destination country. Yet another
potential problem is that the employee
will likely be able to benefit from the
employment laws of both countries.
Regardless of the parties’ intentions
or the terms of the secondment
agreement, certain laws of the
destination country will apply where
these are based on the location of the
performance of work.
Global employment
This relationship provides the greatest
freedom to structure compensation
and employee benefits, as well as the
handling of payroll tax withholding
and reporting.
A separate company is maintained for
employees on global assignments.
The employee is terminated by the
original company, hired by this global
employment company, and then
seconded to the destination company.
The global employment company
limits the potential liability of the
original company to permanent
establishment tax and employment
concerns in the destination country.
The global employment company
may be funded by service payments
by either or both the original company
or destination company. Income tax
liabilities for the global employment
company are limited by its relatively
low net income and may be managed
further by locating the global
employment company in tax-friendly
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
International assignment
employment agreements
Danny Development Manager was very displeased with Eyal Expat’s performance, “That was his
last mistake! Time to terminate his ‘at will’ employment.” Margie Mobility Manager explained to
Danny that “at will” employment did not exist in the country where Danny choose to set up the
offshore development center where Eyal was employed.
Danny should have looked at the international assignment employment agreement (written with
legal counsel) which spelled out the termination provisions. Margie worked with legal counsel
knowledgeable in both the laws of the original employer’s country and the destination employer’s
country to understand which and how the laws of each country could be applied, and what the
potential liabilities were to the two companies. She was then able to determine when and where
to best terminate Eyal.
Employment laws vary
by country
Each country has its own laws
governing employment within its
borders. There may also be laws
by state, province or even more
local government authority. Each
government is likely to enforce its own
employment laws for any employer
with an employee working within their
boundaries. This is true even where
employers and employees may have
voluntarily agreed in writing to the
application of a specific country’s laws.
These employment laws can be very
different. Employment agreements
developed for use in one country
may not be valid in another country,
a common issue that multinational
employers sometimes fail to consider.
A formal employment agreement,
rather than a US-style job offer letter,
is common in most countries. The
“at will” employment that prevails in
the United States does not generally
apply in other countries. Choice of law
provisions in employment agreements
are often disregarded as contrary to
public policy in most countries. In
other cases, while the choice of law
provision is valid for some purposes
it is not possible to contract out of
certain basic legislation such as rules
governing public holidays, vacation,
hours of work, overtime pay, data
protection, maternity leave and
The distinction between employees
and independent contractors is
generally recognized. It is common in
most countries to look at independent
contractor relationships for possible
misclassification of what the local
law deems to be employment
relationships. Documenting the
relationship in the appropriate
written employment or independent
contractor agreement is important, as
is evaluating the facts to determine
the relationship claimed.
The terms of the agreement will
also depend very much on how
the employment relationship is
structured. International assignment
agreements are primarily used for
secondments, dual employment
and global employment companies.
Transfer structures rely instead on
the termination agreement with the
home country employer and a more
standardized local employment
agreement with the destination
country employer.
Key provisions
Immigration approval
The best practice is to include a
provision making the assignment
contingent upon approval by the
destination country of any required
visa, work and/or residence permit.
International assignment agreements
often include cost of living adjustment
provisions to compensate employees
for the cost of relocating and
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
maintaining a residence in the
destination country. A hardship
allowance or tax equalization payment
may be included as well.
Local laws and/or practices in the
destination country may vary from the
home country in terms of overtime
compensation, holidays, bonuses,
etc. Such legal requirements usually
cannot be altered by employment
agreement, but it may be possible
to adjust compensation to take such
mandatory payments into account.
Depending on treaty provisions, it
may be possible in some cases for the
agreement to allow for an election to
remain on the home country’s social
security, social insurance, medical
and/or related schemes.
The agreement may provide for how
medical emergencies are handled.
There may be additional medical
insurance required.
Health conditions and medical
practices vary greatly around the
world. Immunization requirements/
recommendations are common.
Some countries may require medical
examinations as a condition for
living and working in the destination
country, with individuals excluded for
designated medical reasons.
In addition to housing allowance
terms, the agreement may include
terms that help the employee with the
sale of the existing home, shipment
of furniture and belongings, the new
home search, etc.
There may be terms to assist the
employee with local orientation
issues, such as language and cultural
instruction. Employers may consider
a mentoring program to facilitate the
employee’s adjustment to the new
work environment.
Since “at will” employment is not the
norm in most countries outside the
United States, termination provisions
must be written to conform to
local law. There may be mandatory
severance due, post-employment
benefits, a requirement to consult with
the labor council, etc.
The agreement may also include
terms regarding the handling of costs
related to the employee’s eventual
departure from the destination country
at the end of the assignment. These
terms will likely differ if termination
is early and for cause or a voluntary
termination by the employee.
If there are accompanying family
members, the agreement may include
provisions related to the handling
of additional expenses for travel,
insurance, education, lodging, etc.
United States Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act (FCPA)
United States employers and their
foreign affiliates are subject to
the United States Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act or United States Code
of Business Conduct. These laws are
applied even to business dealings
outside the United States. That said,
it is important to also review the
local laws where the worker will be
employed to ensure no violations. In
jurisdictions where there are local or
extraterritorially applied equivalent
laws, those provisions should be
included as well.
In some countries, the agreement
must be in the local language to be
enforceable. Interpretation of bilingual
agreements may be in favor of the
local language.
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
Data privacy
Danny Development Director decided that Elena Engineer, currently working at the wholly-owned
European subsidiary, should be transferred on a temporary assignment to the head office of the
parent company to work on Release 3.02.
Feeling rather pleased with himself and all he had learned through Wikipedia about the European
Union Data Protection Directive, he asked Margie Mobility Manager how the company was going
to get the information needed for Elena’s visa, since the law prohibits the transfer of Elena’s
personal data to the United States.
Always two steps ahead, Margie explained that the company already had in place a safe harbor privacy
policy that complied with the framework agreed upon by the United States and European Union.
Protecting employee
personal data
The European Union Data Protection
Directive prohibits the transfer of
personal data to non-European
Union countries that do not meet the
European Union adequacy standard
for data privacy protection.
The United States, the European
Union and Switzerland take different
approaches to protecting data privacy.
The United States Department of
Commerce, in consultation with the
European Commission, developed
a “safe harbor” framework. A
similar framework was developed
in consultation with the Federal
Data Protection and Information
Commissioner of Switzerland.
Canada, on the other hand, has
national data protection legislation,
as well as similar legislation that
applies to certain provinces.
Canada is considered as providing
the required level of protection for
personal data transferred from the
European Union, further to a Decision
of the Commission of the European
Key considerations
• A safe harbor compliant privacy
policy must be established.
• An independent recourse
mechanism is required to provide
for the investigation of complaints.
• Companies must maintain a
compliance verification assessment
program, either through selfassessment or via an independent
third party.
• A company contact must be
designated to handle questions,
complaints, access requests and
other safe harbor issues.
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
Global anti-corruption laws
In general
The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
(FCPA), the UK Bribery Act (UKBA), the
Canadian Corruption of Foreign Public
Officials Act (CFPOA) and other similar
anti-corruption legislation around
the world prohibit corporations and
individuals from engaging in bribery
and requires corporations to maintain
accurate financial records. Failure to
adopt effective compliance programs
and procedures can result in serious
reputational damage, significant
fines, imprisonment for individuals
and debarment of organizations from
conducting business with national and
local governments.
Merely adopting a policy that simply
states the requirements of the law
is not sufficient. Adopting a robust
program that
• effectively fosters a culture of
compliance endorsed and
promoted by the top leadership
of the organization;
• frequently engages in thoughtful
risk assessment;
• adopts proportional procedures
based on identified risks;
• requires due diligence on thirdparty partners;
• promotes regular auditing; and
• ensures effective training and
communication about the program
can reduce or prevent civil and
criminal liability even when a rogue
employee engages in an act of
corruption or bribery.
The US Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act
The FCPA is the most well-known of
the anti-corruption legislation that
has, in recent years, been proliferating
around the world. The FCPA has two
primary provisions, the first prohibits
bribery of foreign (that is, non-US)
public officials, for the purpose of
corruptly influencing the official to
assist in obtaining business. The
second provision requires publicly
traded companies to maintain
accurate books and records and
to adopt internal financial controls.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ)
and the US Securities and Exchange
Commission (SEC) have criminal
and civil enforcement authority
over the FCPA. Both agencies have
highly centralized, well-funded and
dedicated units that focus exclusively
on FCPA enforcement. As a result
of their efforts, the US has literally
collected billions of dollars in fines,
disgorgements, forfeitures and other
sanctions. Many US and foreign
nationals are now serving significant
prison sentences as well.
A truly global prohibition of bribery
Though focused on “public” corruption
outside of the United States, the FCPA
has a staggering reach. The antibribery provision governs:
i. all US persons (citizen or resident,
individual or entity);
ii. all agents or subsidiaries (whether
US or or informal) of those US
persons; and
iii. all foreign persons (individual
or entity) that cause, directly
or indirectly, any act within the
territorial borders of the United
States that furthers any corrupt
conduct in violation of the FCPA.
15 U.S.C. § 78dd-1, 2 and 3.
There is no need for any of the
purported offenders to have ever
been in the United States, they merely
need to have caused an act, even
an otherwise legal one, that furthers
corrupt activity.
The specific conduct prohibited
under the anti-bribery provisions
of the FCPA is giving or promising
“something of value” to a “government
official” in exchange for “corruptly”
inducing that official to use his or
her official position to “obtain or
retain business. . .” or to obtain any
“improper [business] advantage.”
The US government has successfully
prosecuted cases in which the thing
“of value” was as direct as a cash
payment and as indefinite and vague
as “an opportunity.”
Moreover, the definition of government
official is extraordinarily broad.
The DOJ and the SEC assert that
this covers all levels of foreign or
international government personnel
(and officials of foreign political
parties) — from an engineer in a city
planning department to the Prime
Minister — and any person who works
for any foreign government-owned
business, such as a public hospital or a
telecommunications company.
Accurate books and records and
internal controls
The second provision of the FCPA is
often simply described as imposing
a requirement for accurate books
and records on publicly traded
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
corporations. 15 U.S.C. § 78m(b)(2)(A).
While this view is accurate as far as
it goes, it is too simplistic. Accuracy
under this provision of the FCPA is
not limited to mathematical precision.
The accompanying description of the
transaction must describe a bribe as
a bribe. In other words, this provision
creates a second basis for liability
for corruption for publicly traded
In addition, the FCPA “books and
records” provision requires publicly
traded corporations to have adequate
internal controls to provide reasonable
assurances that transactions are
only executed with management’s
authorization, that those transactions
are accurately recorded, that access
to company assets is limited to those
with management’s authorization and
that the system is regularly audited. 15
U.S.C. § 78m(b)(2)(B). These controls
must be able to detect and deter
violations of the FCPA.
Focus of global anti-corruption
schemes grows beyond the
public sector
The organic growth of global anticorruption statutes has produced
schemes that sometimes mirror the US
focus on so-called “public corruption”
— the corruption of government
officials and entities — and sometimes
it has produced far more all-inclusive
prohibitions against corruption. In
North America, there is a common
focus attempting to end the corruption
of public officials. Canada has its
CFPOA and Mexico has its Law Against
Corruption in Public Procurement
(Ley Federal Anticorrupcion en
Contrataciones Publicas). In contrast,
the United Kingdom chose to focus
on bribery in general, prohibiting
engaging in or accepting any bribe
regardless of whether the recipient is a
government official or a private citizen.
This prohibition applies to any UK
citizen or resident, and to companies
formed in the UK.
Continuing its ground breaking
approach, the UK also introduced a
new crime: the corporate offense of
failing to prevent bribery. Such liability
has a global reach for any company
that “carries on a business, or part of
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
a business, in any part of the [UK],”
wherever it is based. See Bribery Act
2010, c. 23, § 7. Known as “Section 7
liability”, this provision criminalizes the
failure to have a sufficient compliance
program to combat bribery, and is
triggered if any person associated with
the business (employed or otherwise)
engages in an act of bribery, anywhere
in the world, with the intent to benefit
the company.
clear: establish a simple program
prohibiting all forms of bribery and
sufficient controls to detect efforts to
violate that prohibition. To accomplish
this holistic approach, companies
should focus on the similarities of
the enforcement regimes, not the
distinctions. While the formal statutes
differ, the focus of enforcement is
usually the same: prosecute corruption
in all of its forms.
The broader UK approach has begun
to have a significant impact on the
US view of corrupt conduct and will
likely influence other jurisdictions as
well. For example, now that the UK
Bribery Act has introduced the idea of
prosecuting both commercial bribery
and public corruption, in the US,
the DOJ has expanded its own anticorruption reach through the Travel
Act. 18 U.S.C. § 1952.
To be viewed favorably by the US,
Canadian and UK law enforcement
authorities, anti-corruption
compliance policies must clearly
prohibit bribery in all its forms, warn
of criminal sanctions applicable
to individuals and impose clear
employment sanctions for violation
of the anti-corruption policy.
But that is not enough — indeed
limiting a policy to these topics can
be counterproductive. Most law
enforcement agencies will view a
policy that merely states what the
law is, without creating a culture
of compliance or a system of
internal controls, as a “paper tiger.”
Such an acknowledgement of the
law — without controls, audits and
enforcement from the top leadership
— will be used as a weapon by the
prosecution in any enforcement action
in the US or the UK.
The Travel Act prohibits travelling in
interstate or foreign commerce for the
purpose of distributing the proceeds
of unlawful activity, including violations
of state laws prohibiting commercial
bribery. There have already been
several celebrated prosecutions of
US persons and foreign nationals
under the Travel Act, subjecting
them to criminal liability in the US for
both corrupting public officials and
private persons. Following suit, the
Security and Exchange Commission’s
FCPA Unit Chief, Kara Brockmeyer,
emphasized that commercial bribery
not accurately reported and described
in the financial documents of a public
corporation can qualify as a books and
records violation.
Effective compliance should
provide one solution to
address all corrupt conduct
Although the global growth in new
anti-bribery regimes and enforcement
can be daunting, the message is
The guidance provided by the US
and the UK consistently state that
commitment, direction and control
from the very top of the organization
is the first critical requirement for an
effective compliance program. Second,
any effective program must be based
on a regular and evolving assessment
of risk, based on the industry, product
or service in question, the geographic
location of customers and critical selfassessment of controls and personnel.
This risk assessment should inform
the adoption of procedures that are
proportionate to those risks, and those
procedures should evolve as new risks
are uncovered or failures in controls
are detected.
Ongoing monitoring and auditing
of those procedures are likewise an
important process to incorporate
in any effective compliance
program. Programs can only remain
effective if they evolve. Authorities
also highlight the importance of
conducting effective due diligence
on third-parties, including agents,
intermediaries and customers. Merely
requiring third-parties to promise
to comply with anti-corruption laws
is rarely sufficient. Finally, key to
any effective program is effective
communication about the policy
(again from the top leadership of the
organization) and ongoing training.
Useful information about the US,
Canadian and UK government’s
view of what constitutes an effective
compliance program is available at:
(Canada) and
Dentons professionals from around
the world, steeped in anti-corruption
compliance, criminal and civil
defense and in conducting effective,
on-site investigations, can develop
a single solution for corporations,
assess existing solutions and assist in
responding to national enforcement
Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
C. Matthew Schulz
Editor and Contributor
[email protected]
Seth Harris
[email protected]
Helen Park
[email protected]
Verity Buckingham
[email protected]
Anneli LeGault
[email protected]
Shawna Vogel
[email protected]
Maxwell Carr-Howard
[email protected]
Todd Liao
[email protected]
Brian Cousin
[email protected]
Sandra McCandless
[email protected]
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Dentons Global Mobility Guide 2015
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