Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced legislation last week that would prohibit companies convicted of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act from contracting with the federal government.
The measure (HR 5366) would debar any company that violates the FCPA, although it would allow the head of any federal agency to waive that requirement if it submits a report to Congress explaining the reason for the waiver.
The legislation is a response to concerns about Blackwater Worldwide — now called Xe Services. In 2007, employees of Blackwater killed 17 Iraqis in a shooting in Baghdad’s Nisur Square. The Blackwater guards, who were contracted to provide security for U.S. government employees in Iraq, claimed they had fired in self defense after an attack by insurgents. But the government said the guards fired without provocation.
Last year, the Justice Department opened an investigation into whether Blackwater paid bribes to Iraqi officials to ensure the company could continue doing business in the country after the shooting. The New York Times reported that top Blackwater executives had approved around $1 million in secret payments to Iraqi officials after the 2007 incident.
“Simply put, those convicted of bribing foreign officials have no business doing business with the federal government,” Welch said in a statement after the bill was introduced. “Companies that flagrantly violate the rule of law – as Blackwater is accused of doing – ought to be stripped of their ability to profit off of American contracts.”
The bill has been referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The Oversight Committee Chairman, Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), has been pushing for the Justice Department to pursue debarment against companies that violate federal contracting requirements. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder last week, Towns asked why the DOJ has not included suspensions or debarments in several recent criminal and civil settlements.
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