House Panel to Hold FCPA Hearing Tuesday
By Christopher M. Matthews | June 8, 2011 12:11 pm

The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for next Tuesday, seeking information on enforcement of the 33 year old foreign bribery as Congress ratchets up its scrutiny of the statute.

The hearing was scheduled at the direction of Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and will be held before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security at 1o a.m. in room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The committee’s website did not provide a list of witnesses and a spokeswoman said they would be announced one day prior to the hearing.

Smith’s senior counsel, Sam Ramer, announced in May the committee’s intent to hold a hearing on the FCPA.

“We’re aware of the FCPA and the issues surrounding it,” Ramer said at the time. “We’ll look at whether reforms or fixes are needed.”

The FCPA prohibits bribes to foreign officials to win business. The huge penalties and soaring costs of corporate internal investigations have irked the U.S. business community, which argues the government’s aggressive FCPA enforcement regime is having a negative impact on American companies doing business in an increasingly globalized world. The FCPA accounted for half of the fines, more than $ 1 billion, levied by the Justice Department’s Criminal Division in 2010.

The hearing comes on the heels of a Congressional staff briefing on the FCPA sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in April and a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the law in November. The Chamber has mounted a high-profile lobbying effort for legislative changes to FCPA, retaining former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and a team of well-connected lobbyists.

At the event in May, Ramer said the committee’s staff is looking at four potential changes to the FCPA. They are considering whether to limit a company’s “successor liability” to past FCPA violations committed by companies they have acquired, to create an affirmative compliance defense, to seek more specificity on the definition of a foreign official under the law, and to create a corporate willfulness requirement under the FCPA.

Ramer would not say whether or not anyone in the House or Senate was considering introducing specific legislation to change the law, but said the FCPA had drawn Congress’ gaze.

“I can’t say that there’s a reform movement,” Ramer said. “But there’s definitely an interest in the FCPA and how it’s being enforced by the Department of Justice.”

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