A U.S. Justice Department official said today the agency is planning to release new guidance next year on foreign bribery civil and criminal enforcement provisions. Whether the guidance appeases critics of stepped up Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations and prosecutions is another question.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Criminal Division said in a speech today in Washington that the Justice Department has “no intention whatsoever of supporting reforms whose aim is to weaken the FCPA and make it a less effective tool for fighting foreign bribery.”
Breuer said “watering down” the FCPA—for instance, removing the successor liability component—would only serve “to send exactly the wrong message” in the global fight against corruption. The U.K. Bribery Act took effect in July. China and Russia have also adopted anti-bribery laws, Breuer noted.
Critics of aggressive FCPA enforcement have offered recommendations to add a willfulness requirement to corporate criminal liability, to clarify the definition of a foreign official and to add a compliance defense.
Breuer said he has continued to meet with industry groups to seek input on FCPA issues. He said he participated recently in a business roundtable discussion at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“This is precisely the wrong moment in history to weaken the FCPA,” Breuer said in prepared remarks today at the 26th National Conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. “To the contrary, whether or not certain clarifications to the Act arevappropriate, now is the time to ensure that the FCPA remains a strong tool for fighting the ill effects of transnational bribery.”
Breuer’s speech comes just a couple of weeks after a federal trial judge in Florida sentenced a former telecommunications executive to 15 years in prison in a bribery case, marking the longest-ever sentence under the FCPA. And DOJ just announced a $70 million asset-recovery initiative targeting a government minister in Equatorial Guinea.
Breuer did not indicate when next year the DOJ will revise its FCPA guidance. Click here for the DOJ's current guide.