For corporate America's top lobbyists, trying to curb a powerful antibribery law known as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has risen to the top of the agenda, sparking a widespreaddebate about how the legislation is enforced.

对于美国企业界的顶级说客而言,努力遏制强大的美国《海外反腐败法》(Foreign Corrupt Practices Act)已经升级为他们议事日程中最重要的内容,同时这也引发了人们关于如何执行该法的普遍争论。

In the past five years, enforcement of the U.S. law has led to about $4 billion in penalties against corporations. The law prohibits companies from paying bribes to foreign officials to win business. A violation can result in criminal prosecution.


Congress passed the law in 1977, after the Watergate scandal revealed the use of corporate slush funds to bribe foreign government officials, but it was sporadically enforced until recent years. Justice Department officials have attributed the recent enforcement push, in part, to the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which requires corporate officers to certify the accuracy of their financial statements. That has led to more companies discovering potentiallyillicitpayments on their books and disclosing them to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department, they say.

在水门事件(Watergate)曝光了公司利用非法资金贿赂外国政府官员的行为后,美国国会在1977年通过了这部法律,但一直是偶尔才得以贯彻执行,直到近年这种情况才改变。美国司法部官员认为,近年来这部法律的执行得以推动,在一定程度上要归功于2002年出台的萨班斯-奥克斯利法案(Sarbanes-Oxley Act)。该法案要求公司高管保证其财务报表准确无误。美国司法部官员说,这使得更多公司发现自己的账簿中有潜在非法支付款项,并向美国证券交易委员会(Securities and Exchange Commission)和司法部披露了这些款项。

High-profile settlements involving U.S. and foreign companies, including Siemens AG, Halliburton Co. and Johnson & Johnson, have burnished the law's reputation as a force internationally.

涉及美国和海外公司的相关案例包括西门子公司(Siemens AG)、哈里伯顿公司(Halliburton Co.)和强生公司等,这些引人关注的案例增强了这部法律的国际声誉。

But as the FCPA's stature has grown, so has resistance from companies, which have thus far responded by paying for multimillion-dollar compliance programs that help them identify bribery risk in their dealings abroad.


Now, amending the law is a priority for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest lobbying organization in Washington. In the first three quarters of this year, the chamber paid outside lobbyists a total of more than $700,000 to press for changes to the FCPA and other laws, according to House lobbying records.

如今,修订《海外反腐败法》已成为美国商会(U.S. Chamber of Commerce)的头等大事。美国商会是华盛顿规模最大的游说机构。根据美国众议院的游说记录,今年前三个季度,美国商会向外部游说者支付了总计逾70万美元,试图敦促修改《海外反腐败法》和其他法律。

Though they can't estimate to what extent, the chamber and defense lawyers say they have anecdotal evidence the law has had a chilling effect, stunting U.S. business interests abroad as companies shun deals for fear of triggering FCPA probes.


The Justice Department and anticorruption advocates say any changes to the FCPA, the first law of its kind, would send the wrong message to foreign governments that recently passed or updated bans on foreign bribery, including China, Russia and the U.K. 'This is precisely the wrong moment in history to weaken the FCPA,' Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, which oversees FCPA cases, said at a recent legal conference in Washington. 'There is no argument for becoming more permissive when it comes to corruption.'

美国司法部(Justice Department)和支持反腐败的人士说,《海外反腐败法》是第一部这类法律,如果修改,则有可能向最近通过或更新了海外贿赂禁令的其他国家政府发出错误的信息,其中包括中国、俄罗斯和英国。美国司法部刑事部门负责人、主管《海外反腐败法》相关案件的布厄尔(Lanny Breuer)不久前在华盛顿的一个法律会议上说,目前恰好不是削弱《海外反腐败法》的时候,在腐败的问题上,没有任何理由变得更宽容。

Yet enforcement authorities also appear to be heeding companies' complaints. The Justice Department is planning to introduce 'detailed new guidance' on the law sometime next year, Mr. Breuer said. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.


Joe Palazzolo

Joe Palazzolo