American corporate executives who are found quilty of bribing officials of foreign governments to gain business could face fines of up to $10,000 and prison terms of 5 years under the terms of a bill that passed the House of Representatives yesterday by a vote of 349 to 0.
The measure, which was approved by a vote in the Senate on Tuesday, now goes to the White House for the President's signature.
The law grew out of revelations in recent years that some 350 companies, including Gulf Oil Co., Lockheed Aircraft Corp., and Northrop Corp, made payments to officials in such countries as Japan, the Netherland, Saudi Arabia and Italy.
Companies that violate provisions of the act face maximum fines of $1 million.
The legislation requires corporations to devise systems of internal accounting controls and to maintain "accurate and fair brooks and records."
This is to deter companies from setting up off-book slush funds used to pay bribes and puts the burden of policing the books on company officials.
The State Department voiced opposition to an earlier version of the act as an imposition of U.S. laws on foreign countries.The version passed yesterday does not cover the affairs of foreign subsidaries of U.S. corporations operating overseas.
The parent company would be liable for its role in any illegal actions by its subsidiaries, however.
Sen. William Proxmire (D. Wis.), an author of the bill, said this provision will "enable the State Department to go forward with negotiations of a treaty which, for example, will require all of the European nations in the Common Markand Japan to adopt similar legislation."