CABA Conference Looks At Anti-Corruption Practices In Latin America

, Daily Business Review

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CABA
Discussion part of CABA's 2013 Legal Aspects of Doing Business in the Americas event held at the Intercontinental Hotel Miami.

Brazil has taken major steps to establish anti-corruption laws and has five major bribery investigations under way.

But few other Latin American countries have implemented similar laws or programs, a panel of international legal experts reported Friday.

"Brazil is a country we're having some success with, and there are others that are more limited," said Eric Bustillo, regional director of the Securities and Exchange Commission in Miami. "I think Mexico is beginning to take some steps, and Colombia little by little is taking small steps."

However, Bustillo said he is hopeful that Latin American countries will soon realize it's in their best interests to establish such protocols.

"Most countries are rapidly determining they have to pass their own anti-corruption laws," he said. "We're a global economy, and they will soon realize it will cost you in terms of foreign investment."

Bustillo was part of a panel discussion on the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in Latin America and how to implement anti-corruption programs in the region.

Jacqueline Becerra, a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig; Brian Dickerson, a partner with Roetzel & Andress; Daniel Medina, director of Grant Thornton's forensics and valuation services practice; and Benjamin Greenberg, a Miami federal prosecutor, also participated in the discussion at the Cuban American Bar Association's 2013 conference on the Legal Aspects of Doing Business in the Americas.

Some lawyers in the audience were somewhat surprised to discover foreign companies doing business deals outside the United States can be prosecuted under the FCPA if any nexus to this country exists. For example, Becerra said a French company bribing officials in Latin America may have had a bank account in Miami, which would put it at risk for prosecution.

"The link to the United States can be tenuous," said Becerra, a former federal prosecutor. "I have a lot of clients who say the government must understand that in order to do business in Venezuela, this is what I have to do. I say, the government will not understand. In fact, they'll say you should have known."

One challenge for companies doing business in Latin America is third-party intermediaries offering to assist them in winning government cooperation, panelists said. Without doing due diligence on third parties, companies could place themselves at risk for prosecution.

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