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U.S. Cracks Down on International Bribery Rings

Jim Mintz of The Mintz Group, a business investigations firm in New York, recently surveyed the landscape for international bribery by looking at Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges filed in the past decade. He says a close look at the numbers shows that the U.S. government is “widening [its] crackdown on foreign bribery in an arresting way.”

Nigeria, China and Iraq have generated the most problems worldwide. Mintz reviewed 117 instances of bribery worldwide since 1999 in cases brought by the Justice Dept. and the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission. China’s bribery cases spanned seven of the eight industry sectors that Mintz identified: energy, defense and aerospace, infrastructure, telecommunications, health and pharmaceutical, manufacturing, agriculture and consulting-miscellaneous. Of Iraq’s ten cases, almost all were connected to the United Nation’s Oil-for-Food program.

The biggest FCPA case ever, says Mintz, was Washington’s crackdown on Siemens AG in December 2008, when the German company agreed to pay the U.S. government $800 million to settle bribery charges in four countries.

Penalties for wrongdoing are rising. The U.S. government’s biggest penalty for bribery in a single country (as well as largest penalty for a U.S. company) was the former Halliburton subsidiary KBR’s $579-million penalty in February 2009 for bribing Nigerian officials with billions to build a natural-gas facility.

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