Corrupting International Adoption

An interesting article about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act [FCPA] made me think about international adoption agencies and their criminal liability under this federal law. According to the article FCPA, which was enacted in 1977, prohibits bribery of foreign officials. The authors offer this sage advice:

In this climate of increased enforcement, it is imperative that firms doing business in foreign markets, both currently and in the future, become familiar with the FCPA. Both the anti-bribery and books-and-records provisions present significant issues for any company doing business abroad.

In general terms, the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions prohibit companies and individuals from making payments — or offering or promising to pay money or anything of value — to any foreign official with the purpose of inducing the recipient to misuse his official position by directing business to or maintaining business with the payor. The anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA apply to . . . any citizen, national or resident of the United States; any entity organized under the laws of any state or U.S. territory; U.S. persons who commit acts of bribery outside of the U.S.; . . . and U.S. and foreign agents of any of these persons or entities.

Hmmmmm. This law sounds like it was MADE for the international adoption oligarchy and, in a serious note of caution for all would-be adoptive parents, those unwittingly caught in its grasp. Let’s read on:

To create FCPA liability, the purpose of the payment or promise in question must have been to induce a foreign official to misuse his position. Significantly, however, the FCPA does not require the payment to actually succeed in its purpose. Companies and individuals that violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions are subject to impositions of fines and orders for forfeiture of assets derived from the corrupt activity.

In addition to fines and asset forfeitures, an individual convicted for violation of the anti-bribery provisions may be sentenced to prison term of up to five years.

Now that should wake you up! One international adoption agency distributed this memo entitled “Gifts for Russia” in which they clearly state (as if anyone was wondering): “These are gifts, not bribes. Gifts are part of the Russian way of doing business. With the gifts, you are recognizing the status of the people you are dealing with, and showing your appreciation for the assistance that they are giving you.”

Appreciation for the assistance that they are giving you. Solid words, but sound legal advice?

Just remember, as World Child, Inc. warned clients in their agency-parent Memo of Understanding, “your American dollars are very much in demand!” “We suggest you bring a variety of bills, including approximately twenty bills each of $1s, $5s, $10s, $20s, and $50s. The rest can be $100 dollar bills. Bills that are over ten years old, are very wrinkled, or are torn or written upon, will not be acceptable.” Acceptable to who?

According to the article:

Although it is clear that the FCPA prohibits bribing foreign officials or their representatives, some less obvious activities may constitute violations of the FCPA as well. Any company doing business abroad should be aware of the following examples of possible violations of the FCPA, particularly in view of the recent increase in enforcement:

  • Excessive gift giving or entertaining foreign officials or their representatives.
  • Allowing foreign officials or their staff to use company facilities for any purpose other than to demonstrate, promote or explain the services that the company provides.
  • Employing a consultant or agent that has connections to a foreign government or agency, for the purpose of influencing that government’s or agency’s decisions.
  • Passing money through an agent or consultant to a foreign official to obtain business or secure an advantage, including consulting or management contracts, or securing certain action on legislation, regulations, or other government activity.

Now I’m sure readers will let me know whether they’ve heard of anything even remotely similar to these (ILLEGAL ACTIVITIES) in the routine conduct of the business of international adoption. I suggest that if anything you’ve read here reminds you of anything you’ve personally experienced, witnessed or directed, call a lawyer, call the FBI, and post a comment.

And I thought corrupting international adoption with money was bad. Now we’ve got to worry about criminal liability for BRIBES?

Before you get too unsettled, just remember the timeless words of FOA (friend of adoption) Debbie Spivack, writing on the Focus on Adoption listserve in defense of Jeanne Smith’s Reaching Out Thru International Adoption agency which placed Russian girl Masha Allen with a pedophile adoptor: “fees are for services to ensure the integrity of the process and keep corruption away.” Thank goodness! That’ll make a stunning defense to felony criminal charges. With Spivack as your expert witness, even the most vile international adoption agency should be able to beat this rap.

And with all this in mind, the Foreign CORRUPT Practices Act need not worry anyone, least of all internationally adopting parents with crisp one hundred dollar bills stuffed in their suitcases.

5 Replies to "Corrupting International Adoption"

  • Jess
    May 20, 2009 (3:51 pm)

    Call a lawyer? Seriously? I think most people doing IA have heard the “gift” message and the “nice, crisp bills” message. I heard both. But neither necessarily gives you an advantage in the system–in fact, those things may be dictated to you as part of the terms, e.g., the orphanage donation in China. So in that sense, are they bribes? If these things grease the wheels for you personally, then they’re bribes. That still doesn’t speak to the corruption issue, of course. It can and does exist either way.

  • Jane Edwards
    May 20, 2009 (7:53 pm)

    Thanks, Mr. Marsh for pointing this out.

    I have to wonder why people who wouldn’t consider trying to fix a parking ticket would give cash to foreign officials in order to get a baby. Don’t these prospective adopters realize that if the officials are exploiting them, they are probably also exploiting the child’s natural parents?

  • anonymous
    May 21, 2009 (9:08 am)

    The Newly appointed US. ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman Jr. and his wife Mary Kaye paid the requested 3,500 dollars to adopt from India and then at the same time gave an additional 10,000 dollars. What would this constitute? He also adopted from China. According to your latest post here, the new ambassador to China would then be guilty of bribery? Or would it be corrupting international adoption? Or both? Or is Mr. Huntsman just a good old American Mormon who likes to spread the wealth when he adopts? It sure gets confusing when officials are handing the money to other officials!

  • John Walsh
    May 21, 2009 (3:10 pm)

    I get the message you’re trying to convey, I think. International adoption is corrupt because Rich White Americans are using money to pay for orphans, and the officials in these countries are so driven to provide babies to the American and other markets that they will do unethical and possibly illegal things to birth parents in order to keep the supply of babies coming. Please tell me if I’m getting the wrong message, but that’s my takeaway from this and another blog you wrote on the subject.

    I agree in part, officials in other countries have found ways to make money off these orphans i.e. the orphanage fee. But they didn’t create the orphans. I don’t know who did for sure, but my reading has led me to believe the one child act in China has a lot to do with the baby girls previously available there. My wife and I heard about the problem and simply thought we had room at our table and could help. I now read some of your blogs and accompanying comments and detect a bit, just a bit, of an attitude towards adoptive parents. Sort of a “You dopes! Don’t you realize you’re feeding a corrupt system that takes babies away from their birth cultures and families?” Wish it were that simple. That people could stop adopting and the supply of babies would dry up. I’ve been working as a foster care lawyer for 20 years and let me tell you, it ain’t gonna happen.

    What appears to be the case is that the babies were there before the corruption and certain “officials” figured out how to make a dime off them. Are there instances where that manifests as pay offs to birth parents for their baby? Probably. What about the extreme case of a stolen baby? I haven’t seen evidence of it, but in this world of ours, it wouldn’t surprise.

    But we need to be careful when we take a tone critical of adoptive parents, please. Taking shots at the Ambassador and his wife is easy. Raising someone else’s child is hard and expensive work. I wish we lived in a world where every child, including my own adopted daughter, got to grow up with their birth family and culture, but we don’t, do we? Until we do, thousands of rich people (like the Ambassador and his wife) and tens of thousands of middle class people (like my wife and I) have volunteered to step into the breach so kids don’t have to grow up in really, really bad institutions. If you don’t like the corruption that has grown up around that, then please make a donation to the many programs that exist to encourage foster care and family reunification in these countries. That would be a better use of time than demonizing international adoption.

  • Jess
    May 25, 2009 (10:34 am)

    This has come up a lot lately in the blogosphere. I don’t think James is anti-IA but he does speak up about its corruption. I’m an a-parent too who talks openly about it. It’s OK to be an adoptive parent and be reflective on the whole process. I don’t think that by talking about corruption in the system we are knocking a-parents or the job they do. How can we not be mindful of how adoption works? What is the point of not talking?