Competitiveness

After two decades of grumbling, American business could get some relief from the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977. The law, passed following a string of palm-greasing scandals in the 1970s, bars U.S. companies from paying bribes or dispensing gratuities to sell overseas. American corporations have long complained that this puts them at a competitive disadvantage, especially in countries where the payment of baksheesh is a way of life. The Administration says it would reconsider FCPA if an international group, such as the 24-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development, would develop a code barring commercial bribery by all of its members. Selling such an agreement could be a tough slog, however. Many OECD members don't want to surrender the advantage they now enjoy over U.S. competitors, and foreign companies are reluctant to change long-established ways of doing business.

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