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Senators Ask Justice Department to Clarify FCPA Anti-Bribery Law

Concerned that lack of clarity on the demands of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act may be causing some companies to expend excessive resources to police possible bribes of foreign officials, Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Chris Coons of Delaware have asked Attorney General Holder to clarify how the U.S. Department of Justice understands the FCPA anti-bribery provisions. Specifically, they have asked Attorney General Holder to explain the circumstances that would prompt the Justice Department to prosecute a bribery case and to describe what would be considered an adequate and reasonable compliance program.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits companies from bribing foreign officials to obtain a business advantage. In addition to money bribes, the FCPA prohibits gifts to such officials that would serve the same purpose. The Justice Department has also investigated the use of foreign consultants that could provide a conduit for the payment of bribes, attempting to ensure that consultants are actually providing services to the companies for which they are being paid.

Enforcement of the FCPA’s prohibitions against bribery of foreign officials has been significantly strengthened in recent years. In 2010 alone, the U.S. government collected $1.8 billion from 23 companies for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Current high-profile investigations — such as those against Avon Products and Wynn Resorts — have definitely gotten the attention of industry leaders.

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