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Project on Government Oversight

POGO Tells Congress Not to Weaken the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

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September 16, 2011 | By: Angela Canterbury

Dear Members of Congress,

We are writing to oppose troubling proposals to weaken the landmark Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms.  POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government. This is why we are concerned about the effort to unnecessarily amend this important anti-bribery statute.

For more than three decades the FCPA  has served as a deterrent to bribery and helped to level the playing field for law-abiding firms using solid business practices in international commerce. However, there is a misinformation campaign underway to convince Congress that a law that is not broken requires fixing.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims enforcement of the FCPA is excessive and is lobbying to reduce liability for companies (their members) that bribe foreign officials. The Chamber has proposed removing liability for subsidiaries that bribe; allowing mergers to provide immunity for past acts; creating exceptions for companies that have a “compliance program;” requiring not only intention to bribe, but that it also be a “willful” act; and redefining a “foreign official.” All of these amendments will send a clear signal that “our commitment to combating corruption has wavered,” according to a report by David Kennedy and Dan Danielson of Harvard and Northeastern, respectively. How can we credibly call on foreign governments to combat corruption while we weaken our own anti-bribery law?

Excessive enforcement of the FCPA is not the problem; lack of enforcement is. As noted by Professor Drury Stevenson and Nicholas Wagoner in their recent law review article, FCPA Sanctions: Too Big to Debar, government enforcement agencies “have yet to impose a company-wide suspension or debarment on a contractor that violates the FCPA. Instead, the government continues to award them billions of dollars in contracts, thus nullifying the deterrent effect of the FCPA.”

Law-abiding American businesses would be disadvantaged by relaxing the scope of FCPA enforcement. It also would create uncertainty for businesses and investors in the global marketplace.  Allowing American companies more latitude for bribing foreign officials sends the wrong message.

Thus, we strongly urge you to oppose any amendments that would weaken the FCPA.  We welcome an opportunity to discuss this further with you and your staff. You may reach us by contacting Angela Canterbury at 202-347-1122 or acanterbury@pogo.org.

Sincerely,

 

Danielle Brian
Executive Director

 

Angela Canterbury
Director of Public Policy

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