Time to Investigate Nike’s ‘Commitment Bonus’ to Kenya’s Track and Field Authority

Since last November Kenya has been rife with claims (here and here for press reports) that American shoemaker Nike bribed the nation’s track and field authority to ensure the country’s runners compete wearing Nike shoes.  While Nike denies wrongdoing, the March 6 issue of the New York Times provides details which suggest the allegations are true.  Yet despite the mounting evidence that an American company is at the center of a high profile corruption case in Kenya, the Times reports the U.S. has not opened an investigation.  Its failure to do so, in the face of President Obama’s stern lecture about corruption to the Kenyan elite during his July 2015 visit to the country and the agreement reached during his visit pledging the U.S. to help Kenya fight corruption, has left Kenyans frustrated and angry at America.  It is “hypocritical,” famed Kenyan corruption fighter John Githongo told the Times, for the American government to “bang on” about Kenya without investigating allegations against the iconic American company.

According to the Times, American officials believe the U.S. is powerless to investigate because, even if Nike did indeed pay a bribe, it was to employees of a private entity, and private sector bribery is not covered by the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  But while private sector bribery itself is not an FCPA offense, this does not mean Nike is off the hook.  If an American company bribes an employee of a private entity, as it is alleged Nike has, it runs afoul of numerous state and federal statutes, anyone of which could provide the basis for launching an investigation.  Four that come to mind immediately are:   Continue reading