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Alcoa Joins the Gang of U.S. Chamber of Commerce Directors in Trouble Over FCPA Violations

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- 1582 days ago -
The government has taken action against yet another company, subsidiary or executive represented on the board of directors of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or its Institute for Legal Reform for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

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JL A (281)
Sunday January 19, 2014, 10:07 pm
Alcoa joins the gang of U.S. Chamber of Commerce directors in trouble over FCPA violations

By: Sam Jewler

The government has taken action against yet another company, subsidiary or executive represented on the board of directors of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or its Institute for Legal Reform for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). On Thursday, Alcoa World Alumina, a company controlled by Alcoa Inc., pleaded guilty in federal court to bribing officials in Bahrain to win a supply deal in violation of the FCPA, which bars U.S. companies from bribing foreign officials to gain a business advantage. Alcoa will pay a $161 million civil penalty, the third largest FCPA-related disgorgement ever.

Public Citizen’s November 2013 report “License to Bribe” documented the efforts made by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce since 2010 to weaken the FCPA. The Chamber has proposed five changes that are wolves in sheep’s clothing and would undermine the law. All of the proposed changes were rebuffed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which have joint jurisdiction to enforce the FCPA and released guidelines responsive to the U.S. Chamber’s requests to weaken the law.

One change the Chamber seeks is to limit a company’s liability for the acts of its subsidiaries. The DOJ and the SEC responded in a set of guidelines, saying that such a limitation would give companies an incentive to create subsidiaries for the purpose of engaging in bribery. Indeed, that is the mechanism through which many FCPA violations have taken place – including the Alcoa violations identified by the government.

The U.S. Chamber’s membership is a well-kept secret, but the organization’s efforts to weaken the FCPA seem to coincide with the behavior of a number of the companies represented on its board of directors. How much overseas bribery would the companies funding the U.S. Chamber commit if there were no law against it?

Additionally, why don’t those companies step out of the shadows and lobby openly against the FCPA, rather than hiding behind the U.S. Chamber? Would they still lobby against the FCPA if they didn’t have the cloak of anonymity afforded by the Chamber?

Alcoa’s subsidiary, Alcoa World Alumina, earned $446 million in gross profit on transactions facilitated by bribes between 2005 and 2009, according to the DOJ. The subsidiary will pay $223 million in fines and criminal penalties for violating the FCPA, while the parent company will pay a separate $161 million civil penalty for related SEC violations. According to the SEC, Alcoa’s subsidiary used an intermediary to funnel the illicit payments to Bahraini officials, and “Alcoa lacked sufficient internal controls to prevent and detect the bribes, which were improperly recorded in Alcoa’s books and records as legitimate commissions or sales to a distributor.”

The $384 million total settlement ranks fifth on the top 10 FCPA cases of all time; the civil penalty ranks third on the list of the biggest FCPA-related corporate disgorgements.

No. 1 on the list of top enforcement actions is the $800 million fine levied in 2008 against Siemens Corporation, whose President and CEO is a Chamber director.

The Chamber’s record of trying to weaken the FCPA in ways that would legalize bribery, and its continued allocation of leadership positions to bad corporate actors, should cast a pall of ethical questionability over everything else it does.

Sam Jewler is the communications officer for Public Citizen’s U.S. Chamber Watch.

Jonathan Harper (0)
Monday January 20, 2014, 4:04 am

Beverly T (82)
Monday January 20, 2014, 6:34 am
Personally, I am VERY glad to read this and would love to read of more such findings and penalties. If we can catch and close loopholes and dishonesty, I am sure our government could cover all that is necessary for us ALL here in America and not just the already ultra rich.

. (0)
Monday January 20, 2014, 9:39 am
161 million in civil penalty but how much profit over and above that do they stand to make within 2 quarters?

Angelika R (143)
Monday January 20, 2014, 9:42 am
Thx Judi! Isn't it time to reform or close that entire "gas chamber" which has a record of euthanising democracy! ?

Barbara K (60)
Monday January 20, 2014, 11:02 am
It is so refreshing to see that some of these hideous companies are being brought to justice. However, I think most of them should be just sued right out of business. Thanks, my friend.

Dianne D (490)
Monday January 20, 2014, 12:34 pm
From what I've read, the Chambers of Commerce directors are tight with the tea partyers and the Kock=h Brothers. I have no respect for that organization anymore. I used to be involved with the ladies chapter of the organization but they have gotten to be a self-centered, greedy group.

Birgit W (160)
Monday January 20, 2014, 2:56 pm
Unfortunately our whole world is corrupt. I agree with Dianne D.

Hartson Doak (39)
Monday January 20, 2014, 6:17 pm
Alcoa will just pay the fine and write it off their taxes as just the cost of doing business.

Helen Porter (39)
Tuesday January 21, 2014, 3:50 am
Hartson, you got that right!

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