Voluntary Disclosure of Country-Level Information and FCPA Violations

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The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) of 1977 prohibits U.S. listed firms from bribing foreign government officials for business purposes. We examine whether less transparent firms are more likely to violate the FCPA by testing whether their voluntary disclosure of country-level information explains the violation. We hand-collect voluntarily disclosed geographic information for firms cited for FCPA violations and for a matched control group of nonviolators. We test whether less transparent disclosure of operations (sales and long-lived assets) abroad explains whether firms violate the FCPA. We find supporting evidence. Next, we compare the transparency of FCPA violators that self-reported their violations with the transparency of our control group, as well as the transparency of non-self-reporters to the transparency of our control group. Regulators sanction self-reporters with lower penalties than non-self-reporters. We find that the former are as transparent as the nonviolators. Yet, non-self-reporters are less transparent, suggesting that they drive our results. Overall, our results suggest that more transparent reporting of foreign operations is associated with FCPA compliance. Our study contributes to understanding whether voluntary disclosure signals FCPA compliance, following disclosure theory and instrumental stakeholder theory.

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Journal of Accounting, Auditing & Finance

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