The latest news about Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. in not only a reminder of the importance of maintaining strong anti-bribery legislation, but also casts serious doubts on the efforts of some in Washington to weaken those laws.
Here's the story: News Corp., which is accused of bribing police officers in the United Kingdom to get information for their news stories, may come under fire by the Department of Justice for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). This law makes it illegal for U.S. companies (News Corp is registered in Delaware) to bribe foreign officials (police officers count).
The FCPA was enacted in the late 1970s and has since been barely touched, that is, until last fall when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched an attack on the FCPA, claiming it was overly broad and ambiguous, making it difficult for companies to comply. Some of us might have a different take on the Chamber's motivations, given that many of their board members and big contributors have had to pay huge fines after the Department of Justice has busted them for bribery.
News Corp. is joining a long list of Chamber companies that have come under fire for allegedly corrupt practices. Siemens, a former Chamber Board member, paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fines after being charged with bribery on a shocking scale. Chevron, which donated $1 million to the Chamber, agreed to pay $30 million after they were charged with corruption in the UN's Iraq Food-For-Oil program. News Corp. is the most recent donor to feel the heat -- they are a big contributor to the Chamber, in fact, they have donated $1 million according to recent reports.
The latest news is that News Corp. has hired former Attorney General Mike Mukasey to represent them. This is the same Mike Mukasey who the Chamber hired to lobby for changes to the FCPA. In short, this all reeks of cronyism. The Chamber is short on credibility in this fight -- they seem keen to protect their big budget contributors and board members, while trying to create the impression that it's good for the little guy.
Congress should not let the FCPA be diluted; bribery is bad for everyone -- it stunts development, robs people of resources, and risks US companies becoming targets of shakedowns if the Act is weakened. If News Corp. is guilty of bribing those police officers, they should be held liable and thankfully, we have the FCPA to hold them accountable.