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September 12, 2008 

U.S. and Other Nations Step Up Bribery Battle

Today's Wall Street Journal reports on the increasing number of antibribery cases brought under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). While the article confirms what those of us who deal with the FCPA on a regular basis already know, the story contains a good overview of recent FCPA trends and issues. Here are some highlights:

A global crackdown on companies that use bribery to advance their foreign business interests is rapidly gathering steam.

Governments in the U.S. and other nations have dramatically increased their investigation and prosecution of foreign corruption cases in recent years, thanks to a spate of new anticorruption laws that has fostered growing international cooperation.

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Mark F. Mendelsohn, deputy chief of the U.S. Justice Department's fraud section, says pursuing anticorruption cases has become "a significant priority in recent years." Additional lawyers have been assigned to these cases and, a year ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation created a team to work on foreign bribery and antitrust cases, he says.

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Increased cooperation among investigators in different nations is believed to be a primary reason for the escalation, say lawyers who handle these cases.

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Another factor: More companies are voluntarily turning over evidence of wrongdoing in the hope of getting leniency from prosecutors. The 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley law in the U.S., which requires executives to certify that their company's financial disclosures are accurate, has also led to more disclosures. A bribe that is mischaracterized as a legitimate payment to a consultant, for instance, can be considered a misleading entry on the corporate books.

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More recently, working ties between prosecutors in different nations have been expanding. In a meeting in Paris this summer, antibribery prosecutors from several countries gathered for the first time in an informal, roll-up-your-sleeves meeting, according to lawyers briefed on the meeting. There they discussed ongoing investigations and strengthened collaboration.

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