The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other corporate lobbying groups have kicked off a major push to force the federal government to update and revise existing anti-foreign bribery laws. Specifically, the corporate groups have urged regulators to provide companies with additional defenses against criminal charges related to suspected foreign bribery.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) was originally created in the 1970s and has changed little in the intervening decades. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce argues the measure is ambiguous and out of step with currently accepted business practices.
Though the groups say they were happy with recently released guidance by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, the guide did nothing to amend the regulations. Back in November the two regulatory bodies released a lengthy guide that was meant to help explain to corporations how the FCPA would be enforced, hopefully clearing things up and creating a more open process.
The guidelines were released at an opportune time given the recent emphasis placed on the FCPA by U.S. regulators. In recent years, the FCPA has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in fines from companies like Siemens, KBR and others. Other major U.S. companies, including Wal-Mart and Avon, are in the midst of incredibly costly internal investigations of possible misconduct.
The business groups said the guidance cleared some questions up, but not all of them. Furthermore, the business groups have said that provisions should be added that allow companies to escape criminal liability for the actions of individual employees provided that the company has already put in place strong internal compliance systems.
Another issue that the business groups raised was something that the recently released guidelines touched on, but failed to fully explore. The guide indicated that companies would be given credit for self-reporting possible violations, but said nothing more. The business groups want a more thoughtful discussion of the issue, specifically, they want to know exactly how much credit companies will receive if they take the step of turning themselves in for possible FCPA violations.
So far the Justice Department has been noncommittal about any plans to change the FCPA. A spokesperson only said that the department looked forward to a "continuing dialogue on the issues."
U.S. Business Seeks More Clarity on Foreign Bribery Law by Aruna Viswanatha, published at ChicagoTribune.com on February 19, 2013.
FCPA Guidance: A Murky Road for Compliance by Patrick O'Toole, Jr., published at Boston.com on February 7, 2013.
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The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: High Cost of Corrupt Practices
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