WASHINGTON Feb 19 U.S. business groups on
Tuesday reignited their campaign to amend an anti-foreign
bribery law by suggesting authorities should give companies
additional defenses against criminal charges.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others have complained the
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a 1970s-era law that bars U.S.
companies and others from paying bribes to officials of foreign
governments in exchange for business, is too ambiguous.
So far they have unsuccessfully lobbied Congress to amend
In November the Justice Department and the Securities and
Exchange Commission released new information about how they
enforce the law.
On Tuesday the groups said that guidance addressed "many,
but not all" business concerns and said they sought additional
safeguards by which companies would escape criminal liability
for the misconduct of individual employees if they already have
strong safeguards and internal compliance systems in place.
"Such assurance should be provided through legislative
reform of the FCPA," the Chamber, the American Bankers
Association, the National Association of Manufacturers and two
dozen others said in a letter to the federal regulators.
U.S. authorities have significantly stepped up enforcement
of the FCPA in recent years, extracting hundreds of millions of
dollars in fines from Siemens, Alcatel-Lucent, KBR and others.
Some of the largest U.S. firms, including Wal-Mart
and Avon Products Inc, have already spent hundreds of
millions on internal investigations into potential misconduct.
As part an effort to head off industry concerns, agencies
that enforce the law last year provided new details about cases
they declined to prosecute. They also gave examples about what
kind of due diligence a company should perform on an acquisition
target and what kind of person constitutes a foreign
In the letter to Lanny Breuer, the head of the criminal
division at DOJ, and George Canellos, who heads the enforcement
division at the SEC, the groups said they appreciated much of
the guidance but still had concerns.
For example, the agencies failed to discuss examples that
show exactly what weight a company receives if they self-report
potential violations, the groups said.
Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat who has considered
legislation, received positive feedback on the guidance and
continues to monitor the issue but has no immediate plans to
revisit legislation, his spokesman Ian Koski said.
Coons "will remain involved as the dialogue between U.S.
businesses and the DOJ continues," Koski said.