On August 24, 2018, the Second Circuit handed down its long-awaited decision in United States v. Hoskins,  addressing the question of whether a non-resident foreign national can be held liable for violating the FCPA under a conspiracy theory, where the foreign national is not an officer, director, employee, shareholder or agent of a U.S. issuer or domestic concern and has not committed an act in furtherance of an FCPA violation while in the U.S. In a word, the court held that the answer is “no,” concluding that the government may not “expand the extraterritorial reach of the FCPA by recourse to the conspiracy and complicity statutes.” The court added, however, that the same foreign national could be liable as a co-conspirator if he acted as an agent of a primary violator.
While the ruling is undoubtedly an important curb on some potential sources of liability for foreign entities and individuals, the availability of agent liability may limit the practical impact of the decision for many non-resident foreign nationals. Unfortunately, the decision did not address the scope of agent liability under the FCPA, leaving that issue open. As a result, further development in this and subsequent cases — especially with respect to the meaning of “agency” under the FCPA — will necessarily be required before the full impact of the Hoskins ruling becomes clear. However, the decision is likely good news for foreign companies that enter into joint ventures with U.S. companies and some other classes of potential defendants, as it may be harder for the U.S. government to charge them with FCPA violations. Continue reading