THE PAST FEW months have been inauspicious for the Justice Department’s efforts to crack down on overseas corruption.

In December, a Texas judge overturned the convictions of Lindsey Manufacturing and two executives charged with paying bribes to Mexican utility officials. In the process, the judge skewered prosecutors for allowing “a key FBI agent to testify untruthfully before the grand jury” and making “misrepresentations to the Court.”

Last week the department was essentially forced to drop charges against more than a dozen defendants accused of conspiring to bribe officials in Gabon. A federal judge castigated prosecutors for mishandling a key witness and for being too “aggressive” in their pursuit of this case.

Department officials should be chastened and should review these cases to prevent future such failings. Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility should scrutinize the allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and hold prosecutors accountable for wrongdoing. But even these serious lapses should not be used to gut the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) — the law that makes it a crime to bribe or attempt to bribe foreign officials to gain or maintain business overseas.

Enacted in the wake of the Watergate scandal, the FCPA was virtually moribund for much of its existence, with barely a handful of cases brought each year. That began to change in 2007 when President George W. Bush rightly tagged overseas corruption as an impediment to innovation and free markets. The pursuit of such cases has only intensified under President Obama: In 2010, the government brought 24 enforcement actions and secured some $2 billion in criminal fines, according to the administration.

The government’s increased reliance on the foreign corruption law has triggered an outcry. Led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, businesses have been pressing Congress for changes they say are necessary to make the FCPA fairer and more comprehensible. The business alliance, for example, wants Congress to alter the law so that a company with a robust compliance program can raise this as a defense if the Justice Department attempts to hold it responsible for the criminal acts of a rogue employee.

Such a move would be a significant departure in criminal law. (Companies in civil proceedings are permitted to invoke a “compliance defense,” in part because the burden of proof on the government is less strenuous.) Moreover, the Justice Department already considers a company’s compliance program when deciding whether it should be held culpable. The department’s guidelines also require that only companies that know of, direct or contribute to the wrongdoing may be held criminally liable.

Lanny Breuer, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, has said that the department will conduct a review of the protocols that govern FCPA prosecutions. Mr. Breuer should consult with businesses to better understand their concerns; he should also use this opportunity to be more specific about what companies must do to avoid running afoul of the law. What he should not do, however, is to weaken enforcement of a law that has made the United States a leader in the ethical conduct of international business.