To paraphrase the ancient Greeks, it is not reality that affects us but rather our perception of reality. To the foreign national business person, the United States can seem to be a massive, complicated, and unknowable place to do business. Compared to other more centralized economies, the diversity and complexity of the U.S. legal system and its markets seems mysterious and almost unfathomable to foreign national business persons.
Aside from the differences in business practices and business cultures, the legal authority in the U.S. federal-state-local political system is decentralized, diffuse, and even in conflict with one another. This makes the legal system and the court system quite perplexing, even to U.S. citizens. Business persons are expected to conduct their activities within a complicated web of laws and government regulations while also protecting themselves within the law in dealing with other business persons. Except for certain tax laws, a foreign business person must observe and comply with the business laws at each level of government in the same way and to the same extent as does a U.S. business person. The old maxim that “ignorance of the law is no defense” applies literally and strictly in the U.S.