SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday launched a pilot program that could significantly reduce the criminal penalties for companies that self-report violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

In a six-page letter, the Criminal Division’s fraud section chief, Andrew Weissmann, outlined a plan to offer up to a 50 percent reduction on criminal penalties to companies that voluntarily disclose FCPA violations before any investigation is opened. In cases where an investigation is ongoing, the program could still offer as much as a 25 percent discount to companies that cooperate fully and hand over information on implicated individuals.

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