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SEC urges firms to report possible Foreign Corrupt Practices Act misconduct

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(Reuters) — Public companies will be required to self-report potential foreign bribery violations to U.S. securities regulators if they hope to receive a deferred or nonprosecution agreement in exchange for their cooperation, a top regulator said on Tuesday.

Andrew Ceresney, the head of enforcement for the Securities and Exchange Commission, announced the new requirement in remarks at the annual International Conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

“I’m hopeful that this condition on the decision to recommend a deferred or nonprosecution agreement will further incentivize firms to promptly report FCPA misconduct to the SEC and further emphasize the benefits that come with self-reporting and cooperation,” said Mr. Ceresney.

The new policy comes at a time when U.S. prosecutors are generally trying to urge companies to cooperate with federal criminal and civil investigations.

In September, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates unveiled a new policy that called on prosecutors to beef up their efforts to hold individuals more accountable and require companies to turn over information about culpable individuals if they wanted to receive credit for their assistance in the probe.

Ms. Yates reiterated those changes in a speech on Monday, saying the Justice Department was planning to update the U.S. Attorney’s Manual to reflect the policy change.

Mr. Ceresney told Reuters on the sidelines of Tuesday’s conference that the change in the SEC’s policy was not prompted by the Yates memo and that in practice, the agency has been granting DPAs and NPAs to companies that have self-reported.

The SEC’s cooperation program was first launched in early 2010. Under that program, the agency started offering deferred and non-prosecution agreements to companies that agreed to cooperate with the regulator’s civil investigations.