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On March 1, 2016, Olympus Corporation entered into a plea agreement with the United States Department of Justice. The agreement settled allegations that Olympus had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by making improper payments to doctors and hospitals in the United States and in other countries.

Under the terms of the agreement, Olympus agreed to pay a $306 million penalty to the U.S. government. In addition, Olympus agreed to implement enhanced compliance and internal controls measures to prevent future FCPA violations. The company also committed to cooperating with ongoing investigations and to reporting annually to the Department of Justice on its compliance efforts.

The allegations against Olympus stemmed from an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Department of Justice into the company’s business practices. The investigation found that Olympus had engaged in a scheme to bribe doctors and hospitals in order to win contracts for its medical equipment.

Specifically, the investigation revealed that Olympus had paid kickbacks to doctors and hospitals in the form of consulting fees, grants, and other incentives. These payments were made in exchange for the doctors and hospitals agreeing to purchase Olympus products and to recommend them to other healthcare providers.

The investigation also found that Olympus had used intermediaries, such as distributors and agents, to make the payments on its behalf. In some cases, the intermediaries were unaware of the improper nature of the payments.

The Olympus plea agreement serves as a reminder of the importance of compliance with anti-corruption laws, such as the FCPA. It underscores the risks and consequences that companies face when they engage in bribery and other corrupt practices, both in the United States and abroad.

Companies that operate in the healthcare industry, in particular, must be vigilant about their compliance efforts. The industry is heavily regulated and subject to scrutiny by government agencies, such as the SEC and the Department of Justice.

To avoid running afoul of anti-corruption laws, companies must implement effective compliance programs that include training, monitoring, and risk assessments. They must also conduct due diligence on third-party intermediaries and suppliers to ensure that they are not engaging in improper practices on their behalf.

The Olympus plea agreement highlights the need for companies to take compliance seriously and to invest in the resources necessary to prevent and detect corruption. Doing so can help companies avoid costly penalties and reputational damage, while promoting a culture of integrity and ethical business practices.