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DOJ to sweeten the pot for companies self-reporting wrongdoing

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The U.S. Department of Justice has started a one-year pilot program intended to encourage companies to self-report violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Companies that participate in the program will receive credit for their cooperation, said the department’s fraud section, which announced the program Wednesday in its FCPA enforcement plan and guidance.

To qualify for the program, the voluntary disclosure must occur before “an imminent threat of disclosure or government investigation,” said the department in its plan. In addition, the company must disclose the conduct “within a reasonably prompt time after becoming aware of the offense” and must disclose “all relevant facts known to it.”

In cases where a company fully complies with the program, and a criminal resolution is warranted, the company can receive up to a 50% reduction off the bottom end of the sentencing guideline fine range if a fine is sought, and generally should not require appointment of a mentor, the plan said.

The fraud section’s FCPA unit will also consider declining to prosecute the case, although prosecutors must also take into account “countervailing interests,” including the seriousness of the offense, according to the plan, which is signed by Andrew Weissmann, chief, fraud section, criminal division, at the department.

“The pilot program is intended to encourage companies to disclose FCPA misconduct to permit the prosecution of individuals whose criminal wrongdoing might otherwise never be uncovered or disclosed to law enforcement,” says the plan.

The department said also it plans on “intensifying its investigative and prosecutorial efforts” and strengthening its coordination with its foreign counterparts.

In November, Andrew Ceresney, the head of enforcement for the Securities and Exchange Commission, said 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.