Foreign bribery probes increase as companies now reporting on cheating competitors

Technology companies, energy companies and healthcare companies are the prime targets of U.S. foreign bribery investigations many of which come to light as a result of one company becoming a whistle-blower against a cheating competitor. The foreign bribery investigations are generally handled jointly between the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission since many of the companies are publicly traded. One recent example of one company revealing bribery information by a competitor involved Panalpina, a Swiss oil and gas logistics firm which was found to have paid at least $27 million in bribes to clear customs in Angola, Azerbaijan, Brazil and various other countries. Then shell and Transocean were implicated and in the end seven companies paid $236.5 million to settle with US officials. Energy companies apparently top the list in foreign bribes as they are dealing directly or indirectly with governments and some of the regimes are deeply corrupt. Under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, whistle-blowers are allowed to recover a percentage of what the government recovers and companies are seeing that they can prevent competitors from gaining advantage through bribes and at the same time recover moneys for their information.