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In Japan, anti-corruption pros band together to help companies comply

A dozen private-practice lawyers in Tokyo, including partners from the top firms, are helping Japanese companies comply with anti-bribery laws by publishing guidance and working with foreign enforcement agencies on behalf of the companies.

The lawyers, along with a few compliance experts, formed the group in 2016. It’s called the Anti-Bribery Committee Japan or ABCJ.

One of the group’s members, Kengo Nishigaki,  said recently that Japanese companies have found it difficult to conduct clean business in developing countries.

In an email to the FCPA Blog, he said, “Unlike U.S. or European companies, Japanese multinationals are bit behind in terms of implementing anti-bribery compliance systems, and understanding practical methods of how to do business without bribery in such countries.”

To help the companies comply wherever they’re doing business, the group published its Guidance on Prevention of Foreign Bribery (pdf) in 2016.

The ABCJ also created an Anti-Bribery Assessment Tool and, working with the Global Compact Network Japan, published the “Tokyo Principles for Strengthening Anti-Corruption Practices.”

All of the publications and tools are available in English here.

Among the dozen lawyers in the group, Kengo Nishigaki is a partner at Baker McKenzie’s Tokyo office. He’s admitted to practice in Japan and New York.

Other members of the group include partners in some of Japan’s leading law firms.

In July, Indonesia’s independent anti-corruption agency, the KPK, asked the Anti-Bribery Committee Japan to help stop Japanese companies from bribing Indonesian officials.

The KPK also asked the ABCJ to report bribe demands made on Japanese companies operating in Indonesia.

In response, the ABCJ “reported a number of illegal charges that were requested by Indonesian government officials or civil servants,” according to an Indonesian press report.

Japanese companies haven’t faced much enforcement at home. But earlier this month, prosecutors in Tokyo used their first plea deal with a corporation — Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Ltd. — to resolve an overseas bribery case.

In the United States, some of Japan’s best-known companies have faced enforcement actions.

In 2011, Yokohama-based construction giant JGC made the FCPA Blog’s Top Ten list when it paid $218.8 million to resolve FCPA-related charges for bribery in Nigeria.

In 2014, Marubeni paid $88 million to resolve FCPA offenses in Indonesia. The company had also paid $54 million in 2012 to settle FCPA offenses in Nigeria.

This year, Osaka-based Panasonic Corporation and an aviation subsidiary paid $280 million to resolve FCPA offenses for payments to consultants in the Middle East and Asia.

On its website, the Anti-Bribery Committee Japan describes itself as ” an independent expert group.”

Its goals are to “empower companies and people to combat corruption, shed light on the black box of bribery and corruption, and promote collective actions among stakeholders.”

The ABCJ says it’s doing that by publishing compliance guidance and assessment tools, conducting workshops and hosting seminars, and collecting data about foreign bribery risks.

“We do not want to be those in ivory towers,” Nishigaki told the FCPA Blog. So, for example, the ABCJ conducts “field research” in less developed countries.

As its recent actions in Indonesia with the KPK showed, the ABCJ is using that field research to help Japanese companies take “countermeasures against unreasonable demands for bribes.”

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Tina Song is a staff writer for the FCPA Blog and a product manager for FCPA Tracker.

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