John Russell, the managing editor of London-based Ethical Corporation magazine, has a nice article here about enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act against European companies. This “new” FCPA compliance risk, the article says, is catching a lot of people by surprise. But it’s today’s reality, so get used to it.
Here’s a sample from the article:
— Lax enforcement of bribery laws to date could explain why European companies are ill-prepared to deal with FCPA liability. Energy companies and others at high-risk of bribery are starting to embed internal anti-corruption policies. But on the question of whether European companies are prepared for increased FCPA activity, [Simmons & Simmons solicitor-advocate Eoin] O’Shea, like his peers, is clear. “In general, they are not,” he says.
— “It is fair to assume there will be a continued flow of new cases filed in 2008,” says Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner and FCPA lawyer Lee Dunst. US law enforcers see anti-graft as a particularly “target-rich environment for investigations”, he says, adding that recent corruption cases are just the tip of the iceberg of corporate wrongdoing. Assessing the readiness of European companies to deal with enhanced US regulatory zeal, Dunst says: “US companies are a little ahead of the game here compared to their European counterparts.”
And we add our two cents as well:
— As long as Europe does not police its own companies, US regulators have a right to step in, argues Cassin Law founder Dick Cassin. He says: “They have to. Otherwise, US companies have a very legitimate complaint about being seriously disadvantaged by the FCPA – despite decades of assurance by the government to level the playing field.”
The article also sets out the growing list of European companies currently under FCPA investigation by U.S. authorities:
ABB (Switzerland, energy)
Alcatel Lucent (France, communications)
AstraZeneca (UK-Sweden, pharmaceuticals)
BAE Systems (UK, defence)
Daimler (Germany, automotive)
Innospec (UK, chemicals)
Magyar Telekom (Hungary, telecoms)
Norsk Hydro (Norway, energy)
Novo Nordisk (Denmark, health, pharmaceuticals)
Panalpina (Switzerland, transport)
Siemens (Germany, engineering, electronics)
Smith & Nephew (UK, medical devices)
Total (France, energy)
If you’re not familiar with it, Ethical Corporation is an independent publisher and conference organizer launched in 2001 to “encourage debate and discussion on responsible business.” With 20,000 subscribers to the magazine and 350,000 visitors a month to the website, they’re making an impact.
The group’s reach is evident from the list of 42 speakers (so far) who’ll be part of its 2008 Anticorruption Summit USA in Chicago on April 16 and 17, 2008. The FCPA is sure to attract plenty of attention — with speakers from BAE Systems, the FBI, Lockheed Martin, Trace International, Transparency International, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and lots more.