By Michael Volkov
At a recent ABA event on Capitol Hill, Sam Ramer, a House Judiciary Committee Staffer, announced that the House Judiciary Committee was planning an oversight hearing on the Justice Department’s enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Ramer announced the hearing during his remarks at the seminar addressing international bribery and FCPA issues.
The House Judiciary hearing follows a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the same topic held last year. Senators Klobuchar and Koon indicated their interest in addressing business concerns but have not introduced any legislation so far this Congress.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been leading an effort to focus attention on the FCPA in view of aggressive enforcement practices by the Justice Department and complaints about compliance costs and ambiguities raised by businesses.
Ramer invited all interested parties to raise issues with House Judiciary Committee staff which are of concern – from businesses as well as international anti-corruption organizations.
During the seminar, Ramer specifically identified a number of concerns that the Committee would be “looking at,” including complaints that the FCPA should be amended to include an “adequate procedures” defense to corporate liability; that the definition of “foreign official” should be amended to provide greater clarity; and that successor liability should be modified to limit the liability of companies for acquisition of companies which have engaged in past FCPA violations.
Congress’ examination of the FCPA and consideration of changes to the law is not unusual. Since its passage in 1977, there have been several amendments to the Act, and numerous proposals to modify its terms. Where this latest round will end up is not know but there are plenty of ideas floating around to consider.
The Justice Department has so far resisted any modifications to the law. How it navigates this latest round of hearings and proposed changes will be interesting to watch.
Michael Volkov is a partner at Mayer Brown LLP in Washington, D.C. His practice focuses on white collar defense, compliance and litigation. He can be contacted here.
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