February 25, 2008 / 9:08 PM / in 11 years

World gov'ts more aggressive on bribe probes-study

HOUSTON, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Companies under investigation for violations of U.S. bribery laws will likely face heightened scrutiny from law enforcement officials all over the world as probes widen and spill across borders, a study found.

Over the last 5 years, government officials have increasingly set their sights on prosecuting companies for possible violations of bribery laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), according to a report on trends in anti-corruption enforcement by international law firm Shearman & Sterling.

The FCPA makes it illegal for U.S. companies or their agents to use bribery to win business in foreign countries and similar laws exist in other nations.

Between 2003 and 2007, the average number of proceedings from U.S. prosecutors was nearly three times the average number seen in the preceding five years.

And now, companies, both U.S.-based and international, are facing parallel investigations by authorities in other countries.

“You are seeing greater resources being devoted to prosecution, particularly in Europe,” said Dan Newcomb, a partner at Shearman & Sterling. “There is a much larger degree of cooperation among authorities. The old barriers are falling away.”

In one example, German industrial group Siemens AG (SIEGn.DE), which is under scrutiny for violations of U.S. bribery laws, also faces probes in China, Greece, Hungary, Nigeria and Russia, the law firm’s report showed.

“While the level of coordination between various governments and agencies currently conducting investigations is not fully apparent, the investigative and prosecutorial demands presented by these alleged violations are significant opportunities for the creation of an international standard of business propriety,” the report said.

U.S. companies under scrutiny by other countries for violations of anti-corruption laws include Halliburton Co (HAL.N), Monsanto Co MON.N and International Business Machines Corp (IBM.N), according to the report. (Reporting by Anna Driver in Houston)

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