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Lobbyists continue to push for FCPA changes

U.S. Chamber of Commerce outlines proposals, cite confusion over law

The heated debate over amending the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act continues to grow, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pushes to amend the law and the Department of Justice (DOJ) continues to reject their proposals.

The 1977 law prohibits companies from paying bribes to foreign officials. Tough enforcement of the FCPA in the past five years has led to about $4 billion in penalties against corporations.

However, lobbyists in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are attempting to change the law, saying confusion over what is considered legal in the law hurts U.S. business interests.

According to Harold Kim, senior vice president at the Chamber, changing the law is “the best solution.” The Chamber’s proposed changes include defining “foreign official,” adding compliance defense and allowing companies to avoid liability if they prove the use of tough measures to prevent bribes.

Still, the DOJ says amendments are unnecessary, as the law pushes companies to work to uncover bribery before making acquisitions. In addition, the DOJ says changes will only send the wrong message to countries like China, Russia and the U.K.—ones that just passed or updated bans on foreign bribery.

“This is precisely the wrong moment in history to weaken the FCPA,” said Lanny Breuer, head of the DOJ’s Criminal Division.

Breuer added, however, that following the companies’ complaints, the DOJ is set to introduce “detailed new guidance” on the law next year.

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