U.S. Chamber Spends Obscene Amounts of Money to Weaken Anti-Corruption Law

A few days ago, we reported that the U.S. Chamber was leading a high-profile campaign to weaken a landmark anti-bribery law called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which bars companies with U.S. ties from bribing foreign officials to get or retain business. In a recent post by The Wall Street Journal, they explore newly released lobbying reports which shed light on the amount of money that the U.S. Chamber has spent to amend and weaken the law. Read their findings below:

How much has The Chamber spend on lobbying FCPA reform?

The short answer is we don’t know, precisely. But a review of newly submitted lobbying records maintained by the U.S. House of Representatives sheds some light.

According to the records, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform paid outside lobbyists $390,000 in the first and second quarters of this year in its push to amend the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. But that figure includes charges for other Chamber causes such as tort reform; lobbying records are itemized by issue, not fees.

ILR’s FCPA wish list includes a compliance defense; a narrower definition of who qualifies as a foreign official; limited liability for the past actions of newly acquired companies and for the conduct of subsidiaries; and a “willfulness” requirement for corporate criminal liability.

The Chamber shelled out $120,000 for the services of former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, now a partner at Devoise & Plimpton LLP, in the first two quarters of 2011, the records show. Mukasey has been enlisted to lobby on amendments to the FCPA and “issues related to criminal law and policies affecting U.S. corporations,” the records say.

ILR has paid Washington lobbying firms Hollier & Associates LLC and JDM Public Strategies LLC a total of $80,000, much of it for lobbying on FCPA reform, since the beginning of the first quarter.

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP, meanwhile, collected about $100,000 to lobby on FCPA and tort reform in the first two quarters, according to the records.

In its disclosure, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP showed a $90,000 tab in the first quarter for lobbying on the FCPA, tort reform, Medicare and other civil and criminal enforcement issues on behalf of the ILR.

Not all of the second quarter reports were available as of Wednesday morning, so the total could change.

ILR, for its part, recorded about $6 million in lobbying expenses (for all issues, including the FCPA) in the first quarter and $5.6 million in the second quarter, according to the lobbying records.

The lobbying effort appears to have produced serious results, including a House subcommittee hearing last month on amendments to the FCPA that the Chamber first proposed in October 2010. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R., Wis.), who chaired the hearing, said he planned to introduce a bill.

Harold Kim, senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is coordinating the lobby effort. A Chamber spokesman said the records “accurately reflect the work being done in this area” but declined to comment beyond the public disclosures.

In an odd bit of symmetry, News Corp.’s independent directors have hired Mukasey and Mary Jo White, a former United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, to advise them as the phone-hacking scandal threatens to expand, Bloomberg and Reuters reported Tuesday night.

The FBI is investigating whether News Corp. employees tried to hack into voice mails of Sept. 11 victims, and federal authorities are also trying to determine if alleged bribes paid to British police officials could constitute a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, The Wall Street Journal reported.

News Corp. has hired Mark Mendelsohn, a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP to advise it, the Journal reported separately. Mendelsohn, as readers of this blog will know, oversaw the Justice Department’s ramp up of FCPA enforcement as a deputy chief in the criminal fraud section.