Rewards offered for turning in crooked U.S. firms

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An organization that fights corporate wrongdoing is looking for consultants in Costa Rica.

The organization is the Anti-Corruption Alliance, which seeks to encourage and help those who would be whistleblowers about corporate bribery and corruption.

Individuals who report such criminal activities, from here or from the United States, are eligible for rewards from 10 to 30 percent of the amount the U.S. goivernment collects, the organization said.

The program grew out of the 2,300-page Dodd-Frank Act, the Wall Street financial reform package that just passed the U.S. Congress.

The measure is named after Sen. Chris Dodd and Rep. Barney Frank, both of whom are not exactly ethical paragons.

According to Larry Morton of the Anti-Corruption Aliance, the organization seeks assistance in Costa Rica. It already is in a number of other foreign countries. However, the reward payments are limited to information on firms that have some contact with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission, known as the SEC.

In an e-mail message, Morton said that “The Dodd-Frank Act covers any company traded on a U.S. exchange regardless of whether it is domestic or a foreign (i.e. Siemens or Daimler that is traded secondarily on a U.S. exchange). Any subsidiary, affiliate or joint venture of a traded company that engages in corruption or bribery in Costa Rica is eligible under the Dodd-Frank Act. The reward money absolutely comes from the companies that settle the claims, many of which are in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The U.S. already had the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which figured in the continuing bribery allegation against former president Míguel Ángel Rodriguez Echeverría. However, that law does not provide for generous rewards to whistleblowers.

The organizaiton does not share in the rewards, but it said it has relationships with lawyers around the globe who initially work for free to get a piece of the final settlement.

The settlements can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Whistleblowers share in a percentage, from 10 to 30, of all money collected over the first million, according to the bill.

Proponents of the bill say that the measure will encourage companies to report their own violations. Detractors say that employees will try to race the company in reporting violations for the reward.

Probably the most up-to-date list of U.S. companies and subsidiaries doing business here is the membership data base of the Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce, known as AMCHAM. The list is not exhaustive.

For financial reasons and trade purposes some wholly Costa Rican corporations are incorporated in the United States and listed on U.S. stock exchanges. They would be covered by the law.

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