By BEN FREEMAN
The campaign to defend the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), from the Chamber of Commerce's proposals to weaken it, has received an invaluable boost from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Last fall, the Chamber released proposals to weaken the FCPA, with the principal justification being that, "The FCPA should be modified to make clear what is and what is not a violation.” Yesterday, Assistant Attorney General, Lanny Breuer, answered that plea. While speaking at the 26th national conference on the FCPA, he said, “In 2012, in what I hope will be a useful and transparent aid, we expect to release detailed new guidance on the Act’s criminal and civil enforcement provisions.”
This announcement was welcome news to a host of anti-corruption groups, including POGO, which have been fighting to defend the FCPA from the Chamber’s efforts to weaken it. And, even the Chamber seemed pleased with the announcement. According to their press release:
We are encouraged by the Justice Department’s announcement of their intent to issue detailed new guidance on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act’s criminal and civil enforcement provisions…We believe that strong guidance from the DOJ could be the foundation for lasting legislative improvements to the statute.
The appeal to “legislative improvements” is likely a reference to the Chamber’s proposals, which legal scholars argue will only exacerbate bribery. And, as Breuer noted, “This is precisely the wrong moment in history to weaken the FCPA. To the contrary, whether or not certain clarifications to the Act are appropriate, now is the time to ensure that the FCPA remains a strong tool for fighting the ill effects of transnational bribery.”
We, at POGO, completely agree with Breuer. With people in the U.S., and all over the world, taking to the streets in protest of corruption, fighting bribery is as important now as it has ever been. The DOJ has answered the Chamber’s calls for clarification. Thus, any further attempt by the Chamber or legislators to modify the FCPA before the guidance is issued would be extremely premature and likely would severely undermine the enforcement of the law.
Ben Freeman is the POGO National Security Fellow