The Security and Exchange Commission may be going through a governmental version of giving a party to which nobody comes.
Last February, the SEC asked for public comment on a new provision of the Securities and Exchange Act, which prohibits corporate bribery of foreign officials. The commissioners had read in the newspapers that there was "uncertainty" over the impact of the new provision on U.S. business.
According to the Sept. 5 Federal Register (page 59001), only 14 responses were received during the four-month comment period.
Now, the SEC knows more people than that have first-hand knowledge of the continuing need to slip a few bucks here and a couple thousand there to keep business coming.
"Affected persons may be unwilling," the SEC Register notice said, "despite the provision made for confidential submissions, to provide the commission with the kind of information that is needed. . . ."
The lack of comment did not deter the commissioners from stating a policy on the bribery statutes and their implementation.
The SEC wanted comments, among other things, to agree or disagree with the commission's determination that it would not join the Justice Department in reviewing proposed "transactions" to see if they violated the law. Because there were almost no comments, the commissioners kept to their original policy of not reviewing "transactions."
A year from now, they said, they would look at how the Justice practice has worked -- using a Justice Department review -- and see if something else is needed.