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Herbert Smith Hires Wombolt as U.S. Increases Asia Graft Probes

Herbert Smith LLP, a London-based law firm with 75 lawyers working in Asia on disputes, hired Kyle Wombolt as its first U.S.-qualified investigations partner as U.S. regulators increase their probes into graft in the region.

Wombolt joined from Boston-based Goodwin Procter LLP and will manage Asian-based investigations for clients as well as advising on U.S. law, according to Mark Johnson, head of Herbert Smith’s Asia disputes team. Wombolt, 42, is based in Hong Kong.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission doubled their enforcement actions against foreign corrupt practices to a record 86 in 2010 and won $1.8 billion in settlements, according to Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, a New York-based law firm. The SEC this year has started probes into financial institutions’ dealings with sovereign wealth funds.

“There has been significant growth in investigations work for financial institutions and multinational corporates throughout Asia,” Johnson said.

Herbert Smith will continue to work with U.S. law firms on probes into possible Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations in Asia and elsewhere, he said.

Avon Products Inc., the world’s largest door-to-door cosmetics merchant, fired four executives over bribes to officials in China and is probing possible corruption in other countries, the New York-based company said in a May 3 regulatory filing.

In March, International Business Machines Corp., the world’s largest computer-services provider, agreed to pay $10 million to settle U.S. regulators’ accusations that it gave cash and gifts to Chinese and South Korean officials in connection with about $54 million in government contracts.

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