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Bribery-law guidelines issued for overseas business ventures

WASHINGTON — With billions of dollars in potential fines and foreign investment in the balance, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday released long-awaited guidance on how prosecutors enforce a law that bans US businesses from bribing officials overseas.

The guide to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act lays out standard practices for the 1977 law. Such cases are rarely adjudicated. Corporations generally settle because being indicted can cripple business. So judges rarely weigh in on whether prosecutors’ interpretations are accurate.

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The guide addresses who counts as a foreign official and when gifts, travel, and entertainment amount to bribes.

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