Last May, President Obama delivered his widely viewed “Arab Spring” speech, in which the President made a clear link between combating corruption, the stability of nations and human dignity. Unfortunately, proposed amendments to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, go against the current global trend, and threaten to undermine America’s role as a global leader against corruption.
I attended a FCPA briefing on Capitol Hill on September 16th for a new report, “Busting Bribery: Sustaining the Global Momentum of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.” The authors of this important study, David Kennedy, Professor of Law at Harvard University, and Dan Danielsen, Professor Law at Northeastern University spoke at length about the dangers of proposed amendments. They began by outlining the Chamber’s suggested changes to the FCPA, including reducing liability for companies with compliance programs and removal of liability for subsidiary companies. Danielson countered the claim of overly-zealous enforcement and described how the US government has only prosecuted companies for FCPA violations in the most “egregious” cases. Instead, government regulators have mainly used the law to raise awareness with companies and give them opportunities to reform their practices. He also pointed out that removing liability for subsidiary companies would openly promote corruption by fostering an “I didn’t know” defense. After hearing both speakers it became clear to me how much our nation stands to lose by accepting the proposed amendments.