Attorney General Jeff Sessions just vowed to uphold a law that President Trump once called “horrible.” Sessions said on Monday that the Trump administration would vigorously prosecute white-collar crime in the midst of murmuring concern that the Trump team would let such cases fall to the side in favor of higher-profile priorities like violent crime and illegal immigration. The Attorney General affirmed his department’s commitment to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids corporations from bribing foreign officials to gain an advantage in business. This is what President Trump referred to as “horrible” and puts American business’s in a terrible position.
Jeff Sessions said, “We will continue to enforce the F.C.P.A. and other anti-corruption laws. Companies should succeed because they provide superior products and services, not because they pay off the right people.”
These remarks were made at the annual conference of the Ethics and Compliance Initiative. The event is a gathering of lawyers who internally police any misconduct within corporations. The Attorney General acknowledged that it was unusual for him to appear before such a group, but wanted to send a message saying, “I understand there can be some uncertainty when a new administration or new leadership occurs at the Justice Department.”
A former deputy chief of the Fraud Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Paul Pelletier, said that Sessions words were “significant” because of the speculation about whether the Trump administration would ease enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This law was enacted in 1977, but saw little invoking or discussion for years. But in 2005, the Fraud Section began to enforce it with vigor. It has now become a major factor in business decisions regarding overseas operations. It generates very large fees for law firms and equally large fines for the federal government.
In the midst of vigorous enforcement, some business leaders argued that prosecutors were overreaching and made American companies and exporters work with a competitive disadvantage. Businessman Trump was among such critics. The President has nominated Jay Clayton, a lawyer who has expressed skeptical views about the act, to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission. This is the body that would investigate violations of the law.
After the Attorney General’s remarks, there was a question and answer session with the lawyers. In this setting, Sessions took on a softer tone. He talked about the importance of American manufacturing jobs put at risk by foreign competitors who are not bound by the same laws as American companies. He said that “good companies” should not be unduly punished if a rogue employee goes awry.
What do you think about Session’s remarks about this law?
Credit: New York Times