The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s plan to change a federal anti-bribery law would make it safer for companies to grease at least some of their dealings abroad or to comply with demands for payoffs.

Yet some of the companies represented on the Chamber’s board tell their employees to avoid such behavior whether or not it involves foreign officials. In internal ethics policies, they describe it as wrong.

“Pfizer also prohibits ‘commercial bribery,’ which is illegal in many countries,” the pharmaceutical company says. “You must not provide any payment or benefit of any kind to a government official, healthcare professional, or any other person to gain an improper business advantage for Pfizer.”

Similarly, Caterpillar, the heavy-equipment maker, says: “In dealing with public officials, other corporations and private citizens, we firmly adhere to ethical business practices. We will not seek to influence others, either directly or indirectly, by paying bribes or kickbacks, or by any other measure that is unethical or that will tarnish our reputation for honesty and integrity.”

PepsiCo puts it this way: “Our business decisions are made on merit. Therefore, we will never give or offer, directly or indirectly, anything of value to a third party, including a government official, political party or candidate, to corruptly influence that person’s business decision or gain an unfair advantage.”

Full story: U.S. firms say costly foreign-bribe law lacks clarity

— David S. Hilzenrath