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Democrats cite potential conflict of interest by Chamber of Commerce arm


WASHINGTON—Two Democratic congressman are investigating the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's effort to weaken the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, saying they are concerned about potential conflicts of interest as many of the chamber's Institute for Legal Reform board members are affiliated with companies that have been investigated under the FCPA.

Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Henry Waxman D-Calif., ranking members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on Energy and Commerce, respectively, sent a letter Tuesday to the Chamber of Commerce requesting all Institute for Legal Reform board meeting minutes and other documents discussing and providing guidance relating to board members' potential conflicts of interest, among other things.

The request came on the heels of Reps. Cummings' and Waxman's investigation of allegations that Wal-Mart de Mexico, a unit of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., paid $24 million in

bribesto foreign officials.

As part of the investigation, the congressmen sent an April letter to the Chamber of Commerce raising concerns over reports that two high-level Wal-Mart executives were on the Institute for Legal Reform board, a potential conflict of interest as the institute has advocated changes to the FCPA that would substantially weaken it, according to the letter.


The Institute for Legal Reform recently proposed five amendments to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to help multinational organizations comply with regulations.

In their most recent letter, Reps. Cummings and Waxman said a staff analysis revealed that 14 out of 55 Institute for Legal Reform board members—nearly one in four—were affiliated with companies that that reportedly were under investigation or had settled allegations concerning FCPA violations.

“We are concerned about these apparent conflicts of interest,” they wrote in the letter, noting that Johnson & Johnson, Citigroup Inc. and Pfizer Inc., among other companies that were investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for FCPA violations, all had executives who served as Institute for Legal Reform board members.

“In October 2010, it issued recommendations to change the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act that would significantly undermine the law,” the congressmen wrote. “Yet nowhere did (the Institute for Legal Reform) disclose that over a dozen of the corporations represented on its board have violated or have been under investigation for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

The letter, which was addressed to Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, asked Mr. Donohue to respond to the requests by June 4.

Calls into the Institute for Legal Reform for comment were not returned immediately.