July 31, 2023

Whitehouse, Tillis Applaud Senate Passage of Bipartisan Foreign Extortion Prevention Act

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) today applauded Senate passage of the Foreign Extortion Prevention Act as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.  The Foreign Extortion Prevent Act would combat kleptocracy and corruption by criminalizing bribery demands by foreign officials.

“America is in a clash of civilizations with international kleptocrats and criminals seizing any and every opportunity to extort American businesses and undermine our national security,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Helsinki Commission.  “I am pleased the Senate passed our bipartisan legislation to defend the rule of law and send a clear message that demanding a bribe from American companies will not be tolerated.”

“American businesses too often face bribery demands from foreign officials, putting them at an economic disadvantage for following the law,” said Senator Tillis. “Our commonsense legislation will help promote free enterprise and protect American businesses from corrupt foreign officials who try to extort them.”

Under U.S. law, only the giving or offering of a bribe abroad is considered a criminal activity.  However, foreign corrupt officials routinely demand bribes from companies hoping to do business with them, then spend those ill-gotten gains in developed democracies.  This system gives unscrupulous companies operating in a corrupt environment a competitive edge while disadvantaging companies beholden to the rule of law, including American companies.  The Foreign Extortion Prevention Act remedies this by criminalizing the demand side of bribery, arming the United States to fight corruption.

The Foreign Extortion Prevention Act is supported by Transparency International U.S., FDD Action, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and a broad coalition of civil society organizations.  In December 2021, the White House released the U.S. Strategy on Countering Corruption, which stated a goal of working with Congress to “criminalize the demand side of bribery by foreign public officials.”

The Senate legislation was also cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and John Kennedy (R-LA).  Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last week by Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Joe Wilson (R-SC), and cosponsored by Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), William Keating (D-MA), John Curtis (R-UT), Dean Phillips (D-MN), and Maria Salazar (R-FL).

This bipartisan victory is another step in Senator Whitehouse’s fight against kleptocracy and corruption.  Whitehouse successfully passed into law the Corporate Transparency Act—the most important anti-money laundering reform in two decades.  Late last year, Senators Whitehouse and Graham passed bipartisan legislation to ensure Russian President Vladimir Putin and his corrupt oligarchs pay for the reconstruction of Ukraine.  In 2022, Whitehouse secured $67 million in the Ukraine supplemental appropriations bill for the Department of Justice’s KleptoCapture program—an interagency law enforcement task force to enforce sanctions, export restrictions, and economic countermeasures that the United States has imposed on Russia.  In 2021, Whitehouse successfully pressed Treasury to begin a rulemaking process to expand safeguards against money laundering in the U.S. real estate sector.

The text of the Foreign Extortion Prevention Act is available here.

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Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921