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Foreign Corruption Now Big Business

It's been thirty years since the passage of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and now it's finally bearing fruit as a thriving niche practice area for law firms, according to the Washington Post.  From the article:

For most of the 30 years since the passage of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, advising companies on compliance and, on rare occasions, defending them against prosecution, has been a niche business in most corporate law firms, part-time work for a partner or two.

But these days, FCPA business is booming, a welcome growth area for Washington law offices just as work on mergers and securities offerings has begun to wane. You can't go into a business class lounge at the international terminals at Dulles Airport without running into at least one lawyer headed to Europe or Asia to conduct an internal investigation of a possible bribe or kickback for a corporate audit committee. And law firm Web sites now boast entire practice areas devoted to advising multinational companies on how to design and implement compliance systems meant to deter and ferret out corrupt practices.

And with huge fines at stake for violating corruption laws, an FCPA practice can generate large fees for law firms.  One company, Siemens, has been the subject of multiple investigations -- and in fact, it was fined nearly $300 million by German courts for bribes paid in Nigeria, Russia and Libya. Siemens claims that it has spent more than $500 million for outside advisers working on the matter, including $100 million to the law firm, Debevoise & Plimpton.

Several factors account for the growth of FCPA work. First, as companies expand globally, many now do business in countries where bribery is acceptable. Second, authorities are now stepping up enforcement -- 38 FCPA cases were brought last year.    

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on April 25, 2008 at 03:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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