By Aruna Viswanatha
WASHINGTON Feb 19 U.S. business groups on
Tuesday renewed their campaign to amend an anti-foreign bribery
law, 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 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, but they also called for
additional provisions that would allow companies to 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.
A Justice Department spokesman on Tuesday said the
department appreciated the group's input and would "welcome a
continuing dialogue on these issues."
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. companies, including Wal-Mart
and Avon Products Inc, have already spent
hundreds of millions on internal investigations of potential
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 the Justice Department, 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 how much credit a company receives if it
self-reports 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.