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U.S. Offers Clarification of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act - WSJ.com

rubenfeld

In the high-stakes world of international business, sometimes a cup of coffee is just a cup of coffee.

This and other bits of wisdom were revealed Wednesday in hotly anticipated guidance from the U.S. government about which practices might put corporations in violation of a far-reaching antibribery law.

The 130-page document is the most comprehensive effort by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission to respond to complaints from companies that ambiguity in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has forced them to abandon business in high-risk countries and spend millions of dollars investigating themselves.

uthorities dusted off the Watergate-era law, which bars bribery of foreign officials, in the middle of the last decade and have since used it to extract billions of dollars in penalties from dozens of major corporations.

While the guidance is unlikely to extinguish a high-profile campaign by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others to amend the FCPA with more protections for companies, it offers some pragmatic advice, particularly in one area of major concern for corporate compliance departments: gifts, travel and entertainment.