The FBI is investigating Oracle for bribery charges in Africa. According to The Wall Street Journal, the software giant has been under scrutiny from the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission for at least a year for allegations that payments made to local officials in Western and Central Africa violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The investigation is just the latest FCPA-related probe and draws attention to the fact that the government has been especially aggressive in the past few years about pursuing bad behavior of American companies abroad.
FCPA enforcement has skyrocketed in the past few years. In 2010, the number of suits nearly doubled from the previous year's count of 40 to a new high of 74 cases. Settlements for FCPA-related lawsuits have also reached record highs. Eight of the top 10 biggest settlements in FCPA's 34-year history happened in 2010. The spike in bribery investigations should raise concerns at News Corp., whose also under investigation for FCPA-related bribery charges. While the company's phone-hacking allegations have been damaging to their stock price and public image, FCPA charges are the biggest threat. As one unnamed source told Reuters recently, "We're more frightened by the (U.S. Justice Department) than we are of Scotland Yard. All Scotland Yard can go after is News International but the Justice Department can go after all of News Corporation."