Chamber Lobbies to Weaken Foreign Bribery Laws

Yesterday, one of the Chamber’s newest high-profile lobbyists and former Bush-era Attorney General Michael Mukasey testified in a hearing on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which the Chamber hopes to weaken.  According to Joan McCarter in Daily Kos, “The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FPCA) is intended to stop U.S.-based multinational corporations from bribing foreign governments.”  A group of pro-FCPA foundations and organizations, including Tax Justice Network, Global Financial Integrity, and Open Society Foundation, explained that the FCPA, adopted in 1977, “(a) requires companies to maintain accurate and detailed books and records, and (b) criminalizes the offer, payment or promise to pay money or anything else of value to a foreign official in order to obtain or retain business (what we generally refer to as bribery).” In advance of the hearing, Heather Lowe, Global Financial Integrity's legislative affairs director and legal affairs council said,

“The Chamber’s proposed changes would seriously undermine one of the most important anti-corruption statues we have on the books…. This is a blatant attempt by the business lobby to limit accountability and reduce a company’s risk of prosecution for paying bribes.   It is a real threat to global efforts to stamp out corruption and foster economic development.”

So in a nutshell, the U.S. Chamber has paid Mr. Mukasey’s firm $10,000 so far (2011 1st quarter filings) to make it easier for U.S. companies to bribe foreign governments all because the Chamber claims, according to the Blog of Legal Times, that the law “could be making U.S. companies less competitive.”  It’s anyone’s guess which Chamber company or companies are funding Mukasey’s work.  Maybe Chamber board member Siemens, which had to pay a $1.34 billion fine after an audit of its company revealed serious corruption?  Or maybe it’s Chamber board member IBM, which paid $10 million in March 2011 to settle a bribery complaint?

Chamber companies are not the only ones potentially benefitting from the Chamber’s work on this issue. According to Media Matters Action Network, GOP Representative Lamar Smith, who held the hearing today, basically ripped all of his recommendations for amending the FCPA from a Chamber report published in April 2011.  And that’s how easily the Chamber’s corporate policies go from white paper to Republican agenda. Let’s hope bribery doesn’t become that easy as a result.

Just In

Whose opportunity does U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue talk about when he talks about opportunity?

The Chamber’s policies might give the largest corporations the opportunity to grow, but that is often not the same thing as growth and opportunity for the American people. After-tax corporate profits in the third quarter topped 11 percent of GDP for the first time since the records started in 1947. But everyday Americans aren’t doing so well, with real median household income declining 4.4 percent since 2009.

When the Chamber opposes increasing minimum wages to coincide with growth in productivity and the economy overall, one must ask whose growth and opportunity the Chamber is pushing for.